Voter ID, tobacco tax go before MO Supreme Court today
By Tom Weber, KWMU
St. Louis, MO – The Missouri Supreme Court will hear arguments today (Wednesdsay) in two cases relating to the November election.
One case is over the state's new voter ID law, which would require Missourians to show a photo I-D before casting ballots. The law was thrown out last month, so for now voters won't have to show an ID.
The other case will determine whether a tobacco tax question will be on the ballot.
The Supreme Court has agreed to issue its rulings on both cases quickly, given how close the election is.
Missouri lawmakers passed the requirement earlier this year, with supporters saying it would cut down on fraud.
But opponents noted not everyone has a photo ID to present before voting. While the IDs themselves would be free, the paperwork needed to get the IDs would not.
A judge last month agreed that was an unconstitutional infringement on the right to vote, especially for the poor, undereducated, elderly, and even women who need new IDs after getting married and changing their names.
If the Missouri Supreme Court reverses that decision, it could leave local election officials with just a few weeks to train poll workers and get the word out to voters.
Other states, including Georgia, Arizona and Florida, also have had voter identification laws challenged in court.
As it stands now, the tobacco tax question will be on ballots and will probably be on ballots regardless of the court's decision. At issue is whether the votes tallied will mean anything.
The effort to raise the tobacco tax came by voter initiative, which meant supporters had to get a certain number of signatures in each congressional district to get on the ballot.
The state initially said the effort was a few hundred signatures short in one of those districts. But last month a judge ruled that about a thousand signatures that were first ruled invalid should, in fact, have been counted. The question was ordered to appear on the ballot.
It's now up to the Missouri Supreme Court to say, for sure.
The question would ask whether Missouri's tax on cigarettes should go from $0.17 a pack - one of the lowest in the nation - to $0.97.
Taxes on other tobacco products also would go up, and produce an estimated $350 million each year in new money. That money would go for health care and anti-tobacco programs.
Absentee ballots have already gone out with the question on them, and it might be too soon to the election to take the question off, of justices order it so. That means voters might still vote on the issue, but the tally might not count towards anything.