CREDIT: AP Photo
Missouri’s constitution provides that “all elections shall be free and open; and no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage.” This is a problem, according to a large bloc of the state’s lawmakers who want to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage. So they are currently pushing a state constitutional amendment that will strip away some of this right. The amendment already passed the state house and is currently pending before the Missouri senate.
The amendment is a response to a 2006 state supreme court decision that struck down Missouri’s voter ID law. As the court explained in that opinion, “the Secretary of State’s analysis in August 2006 estimated that approximately 240,000 registered voters may not have the required photo ID and that the Department of Revenue’s estimate of the same was approximately 169,215 individuals,” so tens of thousands of Missouri voters could be disenfranchised by a requirement that they show ID at the polls. Meanwhile, while the law’s proponents sought to justify the law by claiming it is necessary to prevent voter fraud, such fraud barely exists in Missouri:
[T]he only specific instance of possible fraud that has occurred since 2002 of which the witnesses were aware involved an attempt (whether intentional or accidental is not clear) by a person who had voted absentee to then vote in person. This conduct would not be affected by [a voter ID law] and was discovered and prevented prior to the implementation of the Photo-ID Requirement.
Nevertheless, the proposed Missouri constitutional amendment would overrule this court decision and explicitly authorize voter ID laws. Under the proposed amendment, “[a] person seeking to vote in person in public elections may be required by general law to identify himself or herself and verify his or her qualifications as a citizen of the United States of America and a resident of the state of Missouri by providing election officials with a form of identification, which may include requiring valid government-issued photo identification. Exceptions to the identification requirement may also be provided for by general law.”
Although in-person voter fraud is almost entirely a myth, voter ID laws do disproportionately target low-income voters, young voters and minorities — all of which are more likely to vote for Democrats than Republicans.