State Representative John Simmons

A bill sponsored by state Rep. John Simmons, R-Washington, would require a photo identification to vote is waiting to be taken up by the Senate.

House Bill 334 passed the House 109-46 Feb. 24.

The bill is a response to the Missouri Supreme Court’s January 2020 ruling that allowed Missourians to vote using non-photo IDs like current utility bills and bank statements. The ruling struck down part of legislation created after a 2016 constitutional amendment passed with 63 percent of the vote.

Simmons’ bill addresses the part of the previous bill that required people voting with non-photo ID to provide an affidavit swearing to the voter’s identity.

“The court ruled that the language in the affidavit was misleading and confusing,” Simmons said. “They didn’t say that the affidavit, in its very nature, was unconstitutional.”

That left intact the ability to use a non-photo ID to vote, which Simmons’ current bill would remove. 

“There really wasn’t that protection that Missourians voted for in that 2016 amendment and also what the General Assembly had wanted when they did that enabling legislation,” he said. “We felt that we wanted to get rid of that second option, and so my bill, basically, took the guidance of the court in a lot of ways, and so rather than rewriting the affidavit and having it maybe go up for another challenge on the language police, we went ahead and just struck out that second option altogether.”

Simmons’s bill would require voters to provide a photo ID like a driver’s license, military ID or a state-issued non-driver’s ID. They also can vote with a provisional ballot but would have to provide an ID by the end of the day or use a signature verification process conducted by the local election authority.

“The whole goal is when you show up to vote, no one will ever be turned away,” Simmons said. 

Simmons is confident this bill will stand under the Supreme Court.

“Missourians made this constitutional, and the U.S. Supreme Court decided in the Marion case in 2008 that photo ID is not unconstitutional,” Simmons said, referring to a case involving an Indiana law. 

The Missouri Supreme Court was wrong to take away the affidavit but leave intact the ability to vote with a non-photo ID, Simmons said.

“Everybody, in common sense, will tell you that’s no way of protecting the ballot,” he said. “The whole purpose is to have confidence and integrity when people vote. ”

The House Election Committee also is looking at other issues like registration, ballot harvesting and absentee ballot fraud to make sure it is tightening up all the language on the books, Simmons said. 

“We want to make sure that we scrutinize all the election laws right now,” he said.

When asked how many cases of voter fraud happened in Missouri in November, Simmons said, “I don’t know that off the top of my head. I don’t know what’s been adjudicated. But there’s been a lot of different cases over the years across the nation of voter fraud.”

The change in law wouldn’t affect the majority of voters, most of whom already show ID or their voter card, Franklin County Clerk Tim Baker said. About 50 people cast provisional ballots in November 2020, and that number might be 10 or less in April.

“We have to show our ID for everything else,” Baker said.  “The election is definitely one area that I would strongly encourage a photo ID.”

Critics say photo ID laws block millions of eligible Americans from voting. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, up to 11 percent of eligible voters do not have the kind of ID that is required in some states, and the percentage is higher among seniors, minorities, people with disabilities, low-income voters and students. 

The bill now needs passage from the Senate and the signature of Gov. Mike Parson.