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Missouri lawmakers advance 2nd voter photo ID bill

Monday, May 12, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. —  Missouri Republicans on Monday advanced a constitutional amendment allowing a photo identification requirement for voting and recrafted an ID law similar to one the state Supreme Court struck down two years ago.

The Republican-led Senate elections committee voted along party lines to send the legislation to the full chamber, setting up a potential showdown with opposing Democrats before Missouri's legislative session ends Friday.

After a photo ID mandate was enacted in 2006, a voter sued on grounds that it would effectively disenfranchise her. The Missouri Supreme Court cited the state constitution in ruling the law was too heavy a burden on voting rights.

Missouri Republicans revived their photo ID efforts after the U.S. Supreme Court last month upheld a similar Indiana identification requirement, based on the federal Constitution.

The state court ruling said the costs of obtaining the documents to prove identification and get those IDs amounted to an illegal poll tax. Sponsoring Sen. Delbert Scott said this year's proposal would allow the state to cover such costs for those who don't have the IDs.

The proposed constitutional amendment targeted for the November ballot merely would authorize a law requiring a government-issued photo ID for voters. The Senate committee advanced that amendment to the full Senate. It also advanced a separate elections bill Monday that supporters hope to amend on the Senate floor to automatically enact a photo ID requirement upon voter approval of the constitutional amendment.

The state Supreme Court noted in 2006 that there have been no known instances of Missouri voters impersonating other people. But a sponsor of the amendment, Republican Rep. Stanley Cox, said fraud is by definition secretive, hard to uncover and to prove.

Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan claimed Republicans were chasing "mythical problems" with a solution that would make it more difficult for people to vote.

No one besides Republican lawmakers spoke in favor of the photo ID measure. By contrast, a long line of people were still standing to oppose it when the Senate panel cut off testimony after less than an hour and voted. The committee had to quit, because the Senate was going into session.

Republican Sen. John Loudon ridiculed concerns that the photo ID requirement amounted to a tax on voters.

"The only thing taxing is you have to get off your duff and get an ID that's given away for free," Loudon said.


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