Missouri Republicans chart 2022 effort to adopt legal voter photo ID law

(The Center Square) – More than 63% of Missouri voters approved 2016’s Amendment 6, a ballot measure that included a voter photo ID mandate.

But in October 2018, Cole County Judge Richard Callahan repealed Amendment 6’s provision requiring voters without photo IDs sign an affidavit attesting to their identities, enjoining the state from imposing its voter-approved voter photo ID mandate.

In January 2020, the Missouri Supreme Court upheld Callahan’s ruling in a 5-2 decision that determined statutory language in the revised law accommodating the photo ID mandate was unconstitutional and struck it down.

After a pandemic-induced pause during 2020’s shortened session, Republicans in the GOP-dominated General Assembly resumed their effort to install a voter ID mandate by submitting several 2021 bills that restored the requirement while addressing concerns cited by Callahan and confirmed by the Supreme Court.

The most successful was House Bill 334, filed by Rep. John Simmons, R-Washington, which passed through the House, 109-46, on Feb. 24.

HB 334 amended court-cited language by removing a requirement that a voter without a state-issued ID sign a sworn affidavit to receive a regular ballot, to language requiring those without valid photo IDs only be allowed to cast provisional ballots on Election Day – and return to polling places that same day with appropriate documents so their ballots are counted.

A 2022 iteration of HB 334 is on tap when pre-filing for the session opens for House representatives on Dec. 1, Republicans said during Tuesday hearings before the House Elections & Elected Officials Committee and Senate Interim Committee on Elections.

“I expect we’ll see a similar bill next year,” said House panel chair Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, noting a 2022 bill would pass his chamber but again face uncertainty in the Senate.

It would also face uncertainty in another familiar place – the justice system, Missouri Voter Protection Coalition Director & General Counsel Denise Lieberman, who has successfully challenged Missouri voter ID laws four times in the last decade, warned in testimony before both committees.

“This has been litigated time and time and time again,” she told senators. “We will file a lawsuit; it will be struck down. I suggest that it is folly for this committee to yet again consider legislation that it knows to be unconstitutional.”

Also testifying before both panels was Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, a 2022 Republican gubernatorial candidate, who presented a slate of election reform proposals for lawmakers to adopt as part of his “Show It 2 Vote” campaign.

Ashcroft said requiring photo ID does not disenfranchise impoverished voters, noting his office secures 1,000 Missourians a year free state-issued IDs.

“We have the financial resources,” he said. “We have the wherewithal to help more people, but we’re not having people that want assistance with that.”

According to Ashcroft’s office, in 2017 about 137,700 registered Missouri voters did not have a state-issued ID, 140,000 voters had expired IDs and 2,000 voters had forfeited their driver’s licenses.

In addition to requiring photo voter IDs, Ashcroft’s other election reform proposals – introduced in an August news release – include transitioning from electronic voting machines to hand-marked paper ballots, only using equipment incapable of being connected to the internet, and banning local election authorities from helping voters correct mistakes, or “cure,” absentee ballots.

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