It’s Groundhog Day in the Missouri Legislature. At least it feels that way. Bills advancing school choice, gun rights, voter ID requirements and a host of other familiar legislative themes are circulating through the General Assembly — just like in past years.
Missouri Republicans have been trying to enact a voter photo ID requirement for the past 15 years. Legislation has passed several times, but it’s never been able to fully withstand legal challenges, according to the Missouri Independent.
On Wednesday, The Missouri House approved the latest version of a bill that would require voters to show a valid photo ID to cast a ballot. The bill is sponsored by local Rep. John Simmons, R-Washington, who argues the measure is needed to prevent voter fraud.
“The voters of Missouri want their votes protected and counted properly,” Simmons said. “They don’t want their votes to be disenfranchised by fraudulent votes. Showing a photo ID will help my constituents and your constituents ensure their vote is not disenfranchised.”
Under Simmons’ bill, voters who don’t have a valid photo ID would be able to cast a provisional ballot that would be tallied after other ballots are counted. Voters could return with their ID later that day, or election authorities could verify their identity by comparing their signature on file.
Simmons said the majority of Missourians favor the requirement of a photo ID when voting. He pointed to the support for Amendment 6, the 2016 ballot initiative, which voters approved in 113 out of 115 counties. That law was later struck down by the Missouri Supreme Court.
We agree with Simmons that the majority of Missourians don’t have a problem with the photo ID requirement when voting — especially voters around here. They don’t have a problem with bringing their driver’s license to the polls or, if they don’t have one, bringing other approved forms of identification like a voter registration card.
But the notion that Simmons’ bill is absolutely necessary to prevent voter fraud and illegal votes is far-fetched. His argument about “disenfranchisement” is silly. Voter fraud is a rare occurrence in Missouri. More than 3 million Missourian voters cast ballots in November 2020’s election — a record — and there was very little documented fraud. There absolutely wasn’t the kind of widespread “illegal voting” to overturn any elections.
Despite arguments to the contrary, November’s election turned out to be the most secure election in American history. It went smoothly here and across the country.
Simmons’ photo ID bill isn’t going to impact that reality. His bill is a solution in search of a problem. Our present system already works. It will, however, be challenged in court, and it might be overturned as unconstitutional as all of the previous efforts have been.
Lawmakers should focus their energies on making voting more accessible.
Lawmakers deserve credit for expanding voting options last year because of the coronavirus pandemics. There are bills making their way through the Legislature that make some of those changes permanent.
That’s what we would like to see passed along with expanding early in-person voting like other states have already done. In many states, polling places are open before and after business hours and on weekends before Election Day. Why not do the same here in Missouri? For that matter, why not allow no-excuse absentee balloting?
Those are the kind of election changes that are really needed.