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Final Approval for Plan to Restart Voter ID in Missouri

Ashlyn O’hara / Missouri News Network

The state Senate will have the chance to bring back parts of a voter ID law that the Missouri Supreme Court ruled was unconstitutional.

House Bill 1600, sponsored by Rep. John Simmons, R-Washington, was approved Monday by the House in a 109-45 vote.

Under current law, voters without a valid photo ID must sign a sworn statement and provide another form of identification. Under the new proposal, voters sign a form and return to the polling place with another form of ID and the election judge must match the voter’s signature with one on file.

The House also debated the issue last week, where they voted to kill two amendments that would have allowed people in jail to vote absentee and that would have allowed for automatic voter registration through the Missouri Department of Revenue and through the Department of Motor Vehicles.

During that debate, Simmons said he introduced the bill because he didn’t want the Supreme Court to have the final say in the legislation.

Representatives who voiced their opposition to the bill said there is little evidence backing the supporters’ fear of voter fraud and impersonation.

Rep. Trish Gunby, D-St. Louis, said studies she has read prove voter fraud to be a “rare phenomenon.” The bill hinders the ability of people to vote, she added.

“When I listen to the rationale behind the photo ID law, and the suggestion of voter fraud, I realize this is yet another attempt at restricting the vote of the people,” Gunby said. “Our great nation has an unfortunate history in this effort.”

Gunby asked Simmons what evidence he had in support of his citation of voter fraud as a motivation for the bill.

“I’ll say this: Every successful attempt at voter fraud goes undetected,” Simmons said. “Think about that.”

Rep. Wiley Price, D-St. Louis, who authored the unsuccessful amendment that would have allowed for automatic voter registration, pushed back.

“That’s so smart it’s dumb,” Price said. “That’s, like, so you can’t prove that it is and we can’t prove that it isn’t (happening).”

Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, spoke in opposition to the bill, saying that voter impersonation is “incredibly rare.”

“The fact is there is zero evidence of any statistical impact of voter impersonation in our state or country,” Merideth said.

Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, spoke in support of the bill and said that just one vote can make a big difference.

“I think everybody in here would agree that their vote matters,” Shaul said, “and I wouldn’t want to diminish the effectiveness or the value of anyone’s vote anywhere throughout the state regardless of where they’re at.”

Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, said he would vote in favor of the bill because Missouri voters voted in favor of it in 2016. According to the Missouri Secretary of State, the voter ID law was approved by 63% in 2016.

“Rather than sitting here focusing on the sky is falling, chicken little arguments,” Schroer said, “let’s focus on what the Supreme Court has dictated needs to be done to have a legal voter ID program in our state.”

Debate was cut off by a call for the “previous question.”

Reps. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, and Martha Stevens, D-Columbia, voted in opposition to the bill. Reps. Sara Walsh, R-Ashland, Cheri Toalson Reisch, R-Hallsville, and Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, voted in favor.

The bill now heads to the Senate, where lawmakers will have the opportunity to debate and change it as well.