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Proposed Mo. constitutional amendment on voter ID thrown out

(via Flickr/ Daniel Morrison)

A Cole County judge has thrown out a proposed amendment to the Missouri Constitution that would allow lawmakers to require voters to show IDs at the polls. 

The ruling, which you can view the full text of here, was filed on Tuesday. In it, Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce calls the summary statement, which outlines to voters what the proposed amendment would do, "insufficient" and "unfair."

The ruling is based on several inconsistencies between the summary statement and the actual proposed amendment, Joyce says, including:

  • The summary claims that the amendment would enact a "Voter Protection Act," where mention of such an act is completely missing from the amendment itself.
  • The summary statement says that the amendment would "allow" the General Assembly to provide for advance voting and to set requirements for voter photo identification and absentee voting - Joyce says the General Assembly already has the ability to do this, so the word "allow" is misleading.
  • The summary statement refers to "voter photo identification requirements" while the actual amendment requires "government issued" photo identification - a more specific type of required identification.

The amendment will now head back to the legislature for further revision.
Republican State Senator Bill Stouffer, who sponsored the original amendment, says he expected the courts to have problems with the ballot summary, which was inserted by the state House. But he says lawmakers ran out of time to make changes.

"I had assumed that the court would just rewrite the title and move on," he said. "That disappoints me some." He said he's considering an appeal of the ruling, but adds there's plenty of time left in the current legislative session to make the changes. In fact, fellow Republican Shane Schoeller today filed a bill that would be used to make those changes. Both Schoeller and Stouffer are Republican candidates for Secretary of State.

Opponents of photo ID, including Democratic Congressman William Lacy Clay, applauded Judge Joyce for stopping the "deception" early.

"We've seen it in other states where the citizens though it was a good government measure, and it's anything but," Clay said. "This is a flawed attempt to turn back the clock on the voting rights that we've achieved in this country over the last 100 years."

Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan released the following statement regarding the decision:

“The court decision finding that legislators wrote insufficient and unfair ballot language is a victory for voters’ rights. I am pleased the judge saw through this deceptive attempt to trick Missourians into thinking this proposal is about passing a Voter Protection Act. In reality, this proposal has the potential to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Missouri voters. The Missouri Constitution protects the fundamental right of eligible voters to have their voices heard. It defies common sense to weaken those rights. This debate has always been about ensuring fair elections, and elections cannot be fair if eligible voters are not allowed to make their voices heard on Election Day.”  

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.