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Missouri voters will decide in 2012 whether to impose photo ID mandate

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 10, 2011 - Amid all the major offices on the 2012 ballot, Missouri voters also will be asked whether they want to amend the state constitution to require voters in future elections to produce government-issued photo identification.

By a vote of 25-9, the Missouri Senate on Monday gave final approval to the proposed constitutional amendment that already had passed the state House. Because the proposal is a "joint resolution,'' it can go straight to the ballot without action by Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat who in the past has opposed the idea.

The proposed change also allows for early voting, which now is allowed in Missouri only via absentee ballot and only if people meet certain requirements. The ballot proposal states, "Advance voting may be established by general law from the third Saturday before an election until the first Tuesday before an election excluding Sundays."

Republican legislative leaders are making a second stab at the photo-ID requirement, five years after the Missouri Supreme Court tossed out an earlier measure -- signed by then-Gov. Matt Blunt -- that sought to implement the IDs. The high court said the mandate violated Missouri's constitution.

Republicans and conservatives in a number of states have sought to get photo-ID requirements on the books, contending that their aim is to fight voter fraud. Critics say the real aim is to make it tougher to vote for the poor, the elderly and the disabled -- who are less likely to have drivers licenses and, as a bloc, tend to lean Democratic.

The proposed constitutional change would authorize the legislature to work out the details. So far, both chambers have yet to agree on the companion legislation that would lay out how the photo-ID mandate would be implemented in Missouri, should voters approve.

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.