Republicans in the Missouri House are making another attempt to pass legislation that would require voters to show photo identification at the polls.
No one testified in favor of the proposal at a House hearing today -- everyone who testified either opposed requiring photo ID’s for voting or were neutral and speaking for informational purposes only. In addition to mandating photo identification, House Bill 48 would allow anyone who does not have a photo ID to vote with a provisional ballot, which would not be counted until the voter’s identity is verified. John Scott with the Secretary of State’s office told the House Committee on Elections that Missouri voters would still be disenfranchised.
“In the 2012 election, only 25 percent of provisional ballots were counted," Scott said. "So to say that you aren’t disenfranchising eligible Missourians because you will offer a provisional ballot doesn’t necessarily line up with the facts.”
Committee members are considering two measures: a bill that would require photo ID’s for voting, and a proposed constitutional amendment (HJR 5) that would allow lawmakers to pass the photo ID bill. The State Supreme Court declared Missouri’s 2006 photo ID law unconstitutional. State Representative Brandon Ellington (D, Kansas City) testified against the enacting bill. He says it would disenfranchise the elderly, the poor and minorities.
“We’ve seen these new restrictive laws after 2008, which, in my opinion, shows a bias-ness in American society when we have a President of color, and all of a sudden we’re questioning the legitimacy of people’s votes," Ellington said.
State Representative Stanley Cox (R, Sedalia), a long-time supporter of photo ID requirements, blasted Ellington’s testimony and accused him of calling the bill’s authors and supporters racists. He also told Ellington that he owed them an apology. Ellington says he will not let the proposal come out of committee quietly or let it get onto the floor quietly.
Jefferson County Clerk Wes Wagner was among those who testified for informational purposes only. He told the committee that Missouri law does not require people to use their legal name when they register to vote.
"That is the (State) Attorney General's opinion," Wagner said. "Obviously Bob is Robert and Mike is Michael -- I have an elections judge, her name is June, everybody calls her Sammie...she can register to vote as Sammie."
Wagner says this makes it easy to register in more than one county using two or more different names. However, he also suggested that a photo ID requirement may not prevent this type of fraud.
"I can currently register to vote, let's say, in St. Louis city as Howard, (in) St. Louis County as Howie, Jefferson County as Wes, and Franklin County as Wesley," Wagner said. "I can show my photo ID and I will vote in all four places, and I will contend that you're not gonna catch me."
Wagner asked lawmakers to include language that would require them to only use their full legal name when registering to vote.
More testimony is scheduled next week.
Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport