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Ashcroft seeks 10,000 volunteers to get photo-ID proposal on the ballot

Jay Ashcroft
Provided by campaign

Jay Ashcroft, a Republican running for secretary of state in 2016, is pleased that the Missouri Secretary of State’s office has authorized him to circulate his initiative petition proposal to allow a photo ID requirement for voters.

Now, he just needs a bunch of volunteers to help out.

“I want to try to get 10,000 volunteers across the state,” Ashcroft said Wednesday in a press conference at the Brentwood Library. “And if I do that, then everybody has to get 30 signatures: a couple of houses next to you in your neighborhood. A couple of people in your church, your synagogue, your mosque or wherever you worship. And then a couple of family members, and you’re done.”

So far, Ashcroft estimates that he’s acquired about 1,000 helpers.

Ashcroft’s ballot proposal is the latest of many photo-ID measures that Missouri Republicans have proposed over the years, either in earlier petitions or in bills before the General Assembly.

The General Assembly and then-Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican, did approve a photo-ID mandate in 2006, but it was tossed out by the Missouri Supreme Court for violating the state constitution.

For various reasons, none of the subsequent proposed constitutional amendments has gotten on the ballot. One implementation bill did make it to Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk a few years ago, but he vetoed it.

Legislative sponsors have included state Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit, who’s competing against Ashcroft for the GOP nomination for secretary of state.

Kraus contended in a statement that Ashcroft’s proposed initiative petition was similar to the bills that Kraus has sponsored for years.

Just over one-third of states mandate photo IDs

Republicans have been advancing photo ID mandates for years, saying that they are needed to prevent fraud. Opponents, including most Democrats, contend the real aim is to make it more difficult for certain Democratic-leaning groups – including minorities, women and the young – to cast ballots.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 18 states now have some form of photo-ID requirement. In about half of those states, there are exemptions for the elderly or provisions that allow two poll workers to verify the identity of a voter without ID.

Missouri does require voter identification, but not photo IDs. The 2006 measure, and most subsequent proposals, would restrict the allowed photo IDs to a handful of government-issued IDs: driver's licenses, passports, military or congressional IDs.

The requirements would not apply to absentee ballots, which prompted some critics to note that many cases of vote fraud involved absentee ballots.

In any case, Ashcroft emphasizes that his initiative-petition proposal wouldn’t require a photo ID for voters, but authorizes legislators the option of imposing such a mandate.

Ashcroft added that he's confident the General Assembly will seek ways to make all Missourians have access to photo IDs, and that certain groups -- notably, the elderly -- are exempted.

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.