Judge hears closing argument in ID case
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Judge hears closing argument in ID case

Date: September 6, 2006
By: Kathryn Buschman
State Capitol Bureau
Links: SB 1014

JEFFERSON CITY - With less than ten weeks before the November elections, a judicial decision on the fate of the state's new voter identification requirements was put off until next week by a Cole County Circuit Judge.

"It is going to take realistically, I'll struggle with this. I wish I could promise a decision by Monday. I will certainly try to get something out by the end of next week and I'll work as hard as I can," Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan said Wednesday. "I understand there our time constraints so I will keep that in mind also." 

Also Wednesday, a federal lawsuit was filed in St. Louis against the voter ID law that requires most Missourians to present a government-issued photo ID in order  to vote.

Callahan heard more than two hours of closing arguments challenging the law. The law requires voters to show a government-issued photograph ID, like a driver's license or passport, at polls beginning Nov.7. 

The law, sponsored by Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Pettis County, allows voters without the proper identification to cast a provisional ballot.

"Senate Bill 1014 is simply an evolution in an on-going process of requiring voters to identifying who they claim to be," said Ryan Harding, an assistant attorney general representing the state in the case.

The plaintiffs in the case claimed the law places a burden of cost on voters and is a clear violation of the Hancock Amendment, which prohibits the state to create new responsibilities to cities and counties without financial funding from the state.  

"There is no question that people without a photo ID are hindered or impeded and therefore interfered with casting a ballot," said Don Downing, the attorney representing a group of Missourians who had filed the suit.

The bill, signed by Gov. Matt Blunt in June, allows some to cast provisional ballots without a photo ID if they cite a reason for not having a government-issued ID.  Individuals covered by the provisional-ballot exemption include those who object to photo IDs for religious reasons, voters with mental or physical disabilities and residents born before 1941. 

 The law also allows resident's to obtain a state photo ID card for free, but  to get the card residents must abide by the state's "show me proof" law that requires residents to show they are lawfully present in the country.  To satisfy this requirement residents can show a number of documents including: a birth certificate issued by a state or local government, a valid or expired U.S. passport, a Certificate of Citizenship, Certificate of Naturalization, or a Certificate of Birth Abroad.

Birth certificates costs $15 in Missouri-an amount the plaintiffs argue constitutes an unconstitutional poll tax. 

"Under the Missouri Constitution the legislature is entitled to impose registration requirements and certainly some of those may have some burden to it. But thats not this. This is the right to vote the legislature can't by Constitution interfere with that right," said Downing .

However, Thor Hearnes, another defense attorney, said the cost of obtaining the birth certificate is not a a payment to vote. "Every court that I know of that has ever examined an ID requirement, particularly Indiana and Georgia, have all rejected this as a poll tax."