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House passes voter ID bill

May 04, 2006
By: Ferdous Al-Faruque
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri House passed a bill today that would require Missourians to show a state or federally issued photo identification card to vote.

Lawmakers voted down the partisan line, with 94 republicans voting for it and 65 democrats against.

House democratic leader, Rep. Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, said the bill would prevent the elderly and disabled from voting.

"It's unpatriotic, it's unAmerican, it is anti-freedom and anti-liberty," he said. "In the greatest democracy in the World we should be trying to do things that decrease fraud in elections and increase voter participation and this bill does neither."

But Rep. Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City, cited voter fraud as the reason for promoting this bill.

"We have a rampant problem in the state," he said. "This is a small step in addressing that rampant problem."

However, Harris disagreed that any such rampant problem existed.

"In 2002 (current Gov.) Matt Blunt, when he was secretary of state, said that we did not have fraud in elections in the state of Missouri," Harris cited.

Democratic legislators on the floor said the outcome of the bill would be paramount to a violation of civil rights.

"People used to get on busses and have freedom riots in 1960s and fought for this right to vote, people were chased with dogs and hosed with water," Rep. Connie Johnson, D-St. Louis, said. "They marched in the streets for the right to vote.

"The same 65, 75-year-old people and now we're about to tell them 'you know that right that you marched for, that right that you rode for, guess what we're going to take it away from you and there is not anything you can do about it."

However, Stevenson said anyone born before 1941 was exempt from photo identification cards as were those who voted absentee.

"There are numerous exceptions to the photo ID requirements in this state," he said.

Harris, also challenged the fiscal aspects of the bill.

"The cost of this is grossly underestimated," he said.

Fellow democrat of Columbia, Rep. Judy Baker voiced similar concerns.

"The fiscal note is unclear and I've heard anywhere from 4 million to 22 million," she said. "So the truth is probably somewhere in the middle somewhere."

Rep. Ed Robb, R-Columbia, reiterated his party's reason to vote for the bill, namely voter fraud.

"(The new legislation) should instill a great deal more confidence in voters that people aren't voting twice and we don't have people who are dead who are voting or in a situation in St. Louis where we had canines vote," he said.

The bill would go into effect in the upcoming November election, but contains some flexibility for voters to vote using a provisional ballot.

"We have more than ample time to make sure that everbody who wishes to get those IDs will be able to and the state is paying for those so there is no out of pocket cost," Robb said. "I'm all in favor of making people prove that they are who they say they are when they register to vote."

But for house democrats, the legislation had far dire political consequences.

"This bill reeks of partisanship, this bill reeks of supression and oppression for many people in the state of Missouri," said Rep. Yaphett El-Amin, D-St. Louis. She said the legislature was making a statement with the bill that they were willing to do whatever it took to ensure re-election for certain people at the loss of Missouri's democratic process.

The bill, which originally came from the Senate, is now going to be heard in a House-Senate conference committee to iron out differences between the two chambers.