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New effort to require photo IDs at the polls could be on 2012 ballot

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 3, 2011 - The Missouri General Assembly is close to asking voters to amend the state constitution to allow that voters be required to show government-issued photo identification.

The proposal represents Republicans' second quest to impose the requirement, after the state Supreme Court ruled several years ago that an earlier mandate requiring the photo IDs violated the state constitution.

The state House on Monday approved SJR 2, a joint resolution that would appear on the 2012 ballot. Because the House made a few changes, the state Senate -- which OKed the measure earlier -- must act on the revised bill.

But the ballot proposal wouldn't actually lay out the particulars of a photo ID mandate. Instead, the ballot measure would ask voters to allow the General Assembly to approve the specifics.

A companion bill that would outline those specifics is still pending.

The joint resolution won't require any action by Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, and would go directly onto the 2012 ballot.

Republican advocates contend that the photo ID requirement -- sought in a number of states -- would discourage voter fraud. Backers also say that everyone needs a photo ID, which already is required for checking accounts or passports.

Democratic critics point out that photo IDs wouldn't affect the most common kinds of fraud -- involving bogus voter registrations or absentee ballots. Democrats contend that the mandate is really aimed at making it harder to vote for certain groups that tend to lean Democratic: minorities, the disabled and the poor, who are least likely to have photo identification and may lack the documentation to acquire one.

Secretary of State Robin Carnahan has estimated that the requirement could potentially affect more than 150,000 registered voters who lack drivers licenses, the most common form of photo ID. Republicans contend that fewer people would be affected, citing urban voter rolls that they suspect are inflated.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.