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Schoeller on tour promoting photo ID requirement; Democrats, labor push back

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 24, 2012 - Republican secretary of state hopeful Shane Schoeller embarked Wednesday on a statewide tour trumpeting his support of government-issued photo identification at the polls.

Schoeller, a Republican from Willard, traveled the state Wednesday on what his campaign terms the ‘Show Me ID Tour,’ which highlights his advocacy for the government-issued photo ID requirement. The tour included a stop at the so-called "Victory Fieldhouse," a facility near Fenton that's become a drawing point for Republican volunteers in St. Louis County.

Republicans, including Schoeller, have couched the photo ID requirement as a way of preventing electoral fraud. Schoeller told the Beacon earlier this month that current identification requirements, which can include a utility bill or bank statement, are not strong enough.

Schoeller said on Wednesday that "an idea like photo ID is just plain common sense." He brought up words from his mother, who died earlier this month,to punctuate his point.

"When you asked her an idea like photo ID, she'd say, 'Why not?' I think that's what Missouri voters think; they say, 'Why not?'" Schoeller said. "Because when you go to the bank and you present your photo ID, why do you have a photo ID? In order to protect your hard-earned dollars that you put into that bank so it's not taken from you.

"Now why in the world would it not make sense to make sure you protect your vote every time you cast it by making sure you have a photo ID?" he added. 

Schoeller was joined at his St. Louis stop by Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, GOP attorney general nominee Ed Martin and House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, both Republicans, will accompany Schoeller on other parts of the tour.

Democrats have attacked the push to require a photo ID as “voter suppression” of the poor and elderly, who may not possess government-issued photo IDs or the documents needed to obtain one. The AFL-CIO has launched a nationwide protest againstphoto identification requirements, with President Richard Trumka calling Schoeller’s tour “shameful” in a statement.

Schoeller’s opponent – state Rep. Jason Kander, D-Kansas City – panned such proposals in the General Assembly as “extreme and unfair.” He’s often pointed to Idaho, a state in which he says an eligible voter can sign a sworn affidavit before casting a ballot. If voters aren’t who they say they are, Kander said, they’ll be put in jail.

“That seems like a strong deterrent to me and I’ve always supported proposals like that that don’t disenfranchise eligible voters,” he said earlier this month.

Even if he won the secretary of state's contest, Schoeller couldn't unilaterally impose a photo identification requirement. And the path to implement one is complicated.

First, voters would have to approve an amendment to Missouri's constitution authorizing the requirement. Second, the legislature would have to pass a law laying out the procedures and actual requirements. Such a measure would likely get vetoed if Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, wins a second term. Nixon vetoed such a law earlier.

When asked whether implementing the requirement was a realistic proposal, Schoeller said earlier this month that "we've got to push forward."

"I have a much better opportunity to work with legislative leadership than Mr. Kander does," Schoeller said. "Certainly he's voted against photo ID at every opportunity. So I don't see him realistically doing anything significant on photo ID, but rather continuing the status quo."

Clark backs Kander

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, retired Gen. Wesley Clark endorsed Kander.

Clark, a former NATO supreme allied commander in Europe and an unsuccessful candidate in 2004 for president, used his endorsement to chastise Schoeller’s unsuccessful proposal to change the process of absentee ballots.

"I want Missouri's veterans to know that I fully endorse Jason Kander's candidacy for secretary of state. Shane Schoeller's attempt earlier this year to eliminate absentee voting by mail in Missouri is offensive to those of us -- like Jason Kander and myself -- who have voted absentee while serving our country away from home,” Clark said in a statement.

Schoeller has said the proposal, which didn't pass this session, had been mischaracterized as being harmful to active servicemembers. 

"The bill that we put forth is in order to tighten up the fraud that occurs when absentee balloting goes forward," Schoeller said. "That's exactly what it did. It starts that conversation. But his assertions that we want to prevent anybody that serves in the military currently from being able to vote is a ridiculous fale assertion. He's playing political games."

Clark was last seen in the Missouri political world two years ago, when he backed Democratic congressional hopeful Tommy Sowers. Sowers lost to U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau, by a landslide; Sowers now is an assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs in the Obama administration.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.