Voter ID law struck down by Supreme Court
From Missouri Digital News: https://mdn.org
MDN Menu

MDN Home

Journalist's Creed

Print

MDN Help

MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News
MDN Menu

MDN Home

Journalist's Creed

Print

MDN Help

MDN.ORG Mo. Digital News Missouri Digital News MDN.ORG: Mo. Digital News MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News
Lobbyist Money Help  

Voter ID law struck down by Supreme Court

Date: October 16, 2006
By: Kathryn Buschman
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The state Supreme Court struck down a new law that required residents to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls.  

The court affirmed a lower court judge's decision made last month, saying the law infringed on residents' right to vote. In a 6-1 unsigned opinion the court wrote provisions of the bill, "represent a heavy and substantial burden on Missourians' free exercise of the their fundamental right to vote."  

The law required voters to show an ID issued by the state or federal government, like a Missouri driver's license or a U.S. passport, when voting. 

"I am not really surprised at the ruling the Supreme Court brought down but we are disappointed, said Sen. Delbert Scott, who sponsored the law. "Missourians understand that a photo ID can provide some certainty in elections and that the person voting is who they say they are. Voter fraud is certainly an issue that everybody is concerned about and this would have helped combat that."

The law allowed for Missourians who did not have proper identification to cast a provisional ballot that would later be counted, once the signature is checked against election records for validity. Voters who have a disability, religious objections, or were born before 1941, would be exempt from the requirement. 

The court also ruled the law violated provisions in the state constitution including the Missouri equal protection clause.  

Proponents of the law said it is necessary in order to combat voter fraud throughout the state. "Every election cycle brings out a whole new round of corruption," said Scott, R-Lowry City. The voter registration fraud issue that came to light last week is another reminder that people try to cheat in elections." Last week St. Louis election officials said over 1,000 potentially fraudulent registration cards were turned in for the Nov. 7 election.

 "I think we are shocked that the Supreme Court would go against something that would ensure free and fair elections," said Paul Sloca, spokesperson for the Missouri Republican party. "I think this decision is such a blow to free and fair elections we have clear examples there is election fraud in the state."

However, Stacie Temple, spokesperson for the Secretary of State, said "Missouri's system is working and there are no documented cases of voter impersonation or impostor voting at the polls in Missouri."

Opponents of the ID requirements argued the law made it difficult for lower income, disabled and elderly individuals to vote by requiring them to spend money to obtain the necessary documents to satisfy the requirements.  

Rep. Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, said the bill was designed to suppress the vote. "What really happened here is that this bill did nothing to address fraud," he said. "But it did everything to make it harder to vote, we need to make it harder to cheat and easier to vote. And this bill did just the opposite."

The court also took issue with the cost associated with obtaining the the proper identification the law required. The law provided ID cards to be distributed for free, but another state law requires resident to show they are legal citizens-usually proved with a birth certificate or passport.  The cost of obtaining a birth certificate in Missouri, is $15.  

The court wrote, "Procuring the documentation necessary to obtain the mandatory identification requires funds, time, and advance planning to allow for six to eight weeks it takes to obtain a Missouri birth certificate."

The law took effect August 28, and Department of Revenue spokesperson Maura Browning said the department had issued 2,292 non-drivers licenses for voting as of Monday. The department began issuing free IDs in June.

Browning said the department had not calculated how much the endeavor has cost. "The estimate that we had come up with for the fiscal note for the bill was about $2.5-$3 million and it is impossible for us to say today exactly how much was spent on the program," Browning said.   

"We will come back in January and try to tailor the legislation we've proposed to meet the court's concern," Scott said.