JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Voters would need to present photo identification at the polls under a measure passed by the Missouri House on Thursday.
House members voted 114-39 along party lines in favor of the bill. It now heads to the Senate, where a similar proposal is pending in committee.
Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon in 2011 vetoed another photo-identification bill. If Republicans stick together, they have the numbers to override another veto.
Voters would need to bring a form of government-issued photo ID to the polls in order for their votes to be counted under the House legislation, with some exceptions. Acceptable forms of ID would include military identification, but not student IDs from colleges and universities.
Voter-identification laws of some type are in effect in 33 states this year.
Republican supporters arguing for the bill said a photo-identification requirement is needed to prevent possible fraud.
"Elections are the purest form of participation in the political process," said bill sponsor Rep. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann. "We need to make sure that our elections are held to the highest standards."
Opponents, primarily Democrats, say there haven't been any cases of voter-impersonation fraud — where someone attempts to fraudulently vote as someone else — in Missouri. Democratic Secretary of State Jason Kander, who is running for the U.S. Senate, has also said that an analysis by his office suggests that such a requirement would disenfranchise about 220,000 currently registered voters who do not have a valid government-issued ID and would no longer be able to vote under a photo-identification requirement.
"This is harsh, it's extreme, it's wrong and it's unconstitutional for the people who are already currently eligible voters," said Rep. Randy Dunn, a Kansas City Democrat, during debate on the House floor.
The bill passed Thursday in the House includes a provision for the Legislature to pay for a form of acceptable identification or documentation needed for an ID. If lawmakers don't fund the program, with legislative researchers estimate will cost about $10.7 million the first year it's enacted, photo ID wouldn't be required.
The House also passed a proposed amendment to the Missouri Constitution to allow such a law in a 116-40 vote Thursday. The move would be necessary because the state Supreme Court in 2006 ruled that a state photo ID requirement wasn't narrowly tailored and was an undue burden on voters, so if lawmakers only pass a statutory change it likely would be struck down.
The proposals have support from leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature and are among the first bills of the 2016 session, which began this month, to move forward in both the House and Senate.
The chairman of the Senate committee reviewing that chamber's legislation has said those bills could be voted out of committee as early as Monday.
The constitutional amendment would appear on the ballot during November's general election, unless the governor calls a special election.