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Opponents Of Photo ID Dominate State Senate Hearing On Bill

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A Missouri Senate committee heard testimony Monday on the latest effort by Republicans to require voters to show photo identification at the polls.

The proposal comes in two pieces of legislation:  Senate Joint Resolution 31 would amend the state constitution to allow for photo ID requirements at the polls, and Senate Bill 511 would implement those requirements.  

Under SB 511, Missouri voters would have to show one of the following types of photo ID:  a current Missouri driver's license; a non-driver's license ID; or photo IDs from the Missouri National Guard, U.S. Armed Forces, Department of Veterans Affairs; or any other American or Missouri non-expired photo ID.  Both measures are sponsored by state Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee's Summit.

"I believe that most people have (photo) identification, I don't think this is going be a huge issue," Kraus told the Senate Committee on Financial and Governmental Organizations and Elections.  "You have to have an ID to cash a check, you have to have an ID to buy alcohol, we can't go anywhere today without an ID."

Anyone without a proper photo ID would be allowed to cast a provisional ballot, which would be counted once the voter's signature is verified, said Kraus.  

Everyone who testified at Monday's hearing did so in opposition to the proposal. John Scott from the secretary of state's office said it could disenfranchise about 220,000 Missouri voters and called it possibly the most restrictive photo ID legislation in the US.

"Most Missourians would be surprised to see the types of identification that wouldn't be allowed," Scott said.  "For example, a Missouri student ID, a valid out-of-state driver's license, (or) a voter ID card issued by a local election authority."

As for provisional ballots, Scott testified that fewer than 30 percent of the provisional ballots cast in Missouri's 2012 general election were ever counted.

Denise Lieberman is an attorney who represents two groups, the Advancement Project and the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition.

"We already have a voter identification law on the books, and it works," Lieberman testified.  "There has never been a single documented instance of voter impersonation in the state" of Missouri.

Missouri lawmakers passed a photo ID requirement in 2006 that was signed into law by then Gov.Matt Blunt, a Republican, butit was ruled unconstitutional later that year by the Missouri Supreme Court.  In 2011, an attempt to revive the requirement was vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.