|(Jefferson City) - Voting rights advocates are condemning last night’s action by the Missouri House of Representatives giving conditional approval to restrictive photo ID requirements. After more than five hours of contentious floor debate, Missouri lawmakers late Wednesday night approved legislation to require voters to show photo ID to vote.
“The photo ID proposals relegate thousands of Missouri voters to second class citizens,” said Denise Lieberman, senior attorney and Missouri Voter Protection Advocate for Advancement Project, a voter protection group that has helped organize the dozens of groups and thousands of voters who have joined the fight against the legislation. “Elections should be free, fair and accessible to all who are eligible. As the leading democracy in the world, lawmakers should be making it more convenient to vote, not less. The photo ID bills make it harder for many valid, eligible voters to cast a ballot.”
A study by the Secretary of State’s office estimates that 250,000 eligible, registered voters in Missouri lack a state ID. The measures fall hardest on senior citizens, veterans, the working poor, African Americans, people with disabilities, students and rural Missourians who have difficulty accessing the underlying documents necessary to get the state ID.
Lawmakers raised vigorous opposition to the bills, which have been dubbed Missouri’s “most divisive legislation.”
“This is the single most immoral act that I’ve ever seen happen in my time in the General Assembly,” Rep. Chris Kelly said during last night’s debate.
Lawmakers gave conditional approval of a proposed constitutional amendment to allow photo ID and legislation to severely limit the forms of ID voters can show at the polls to only current Missouri or federal photo ID, typically a non-expired Missouri driver’s or non-driver’s license.
Similar legislation was approved in 2011, which was vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon, as well as a similar constitutional amendment, which was struck from the ballot following a lawsuit by Advancement Project, the Fair Elections Legal Network and the American Civil Liberties Union
The current measures are expected to go to the Senate after a final vote in the House today (Feb. 14, 2013).