Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Covering state lawmakers, bills, and policy emerging from Jefferson City.

Missouri House Approves Legislation Requiring Photo Identification To Vote

File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri House passed a measure on Wednesday that requires voters to show a valid photo ID to cast their ballots.

“Showing a photo ID to vote will help my constituents and your constituents ensure their vote is not disenfranchised,” said Rep. John Simmons, R-Washington, the sponsor of the legislation.

But several who opposed the idea, like Rep. Kevin Windham, D-Hillsdale, said that’s exactly what the legislation will do.

“Matters like this, not just photo ID, have a long lineage of coming from voter disenfranchisement,” Windham said.

The legislation requires anyone without a photo ID to cast a provisional ballot, something Windham called “a second-class vote” because it gets tallied after other ballots. If a provisional ballot is cast, voters can return with their ID at a specified time, or by comparing their signature on file.

Simmons argued Missourians are on his side, pointing to a 2016 ballot initiative regarding voter certification.

“The actual voters of Missouri agreed also with their desire for people to show a photo ID to vote,” Simmons said. “Remember 63% in favor on that ballot issue, 113 out of 115 counties voted in favor.”

Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, disagreed with that statement and said he believes people would have voted differently had the ballot initiative stated that it would require photo ID. He read some of the ballot language during debate.

“Shall the constitution of Missouri be amended to state that voters may be required by law … to verify one’s identity, citizenship and residence by presenting identification that may include valid government-issued photo identification.”

He argued Missourians voted for a verification step but didn’t agree to the only option being photo ID.

The Missouri Supreme Court struck down a portion of a photo ID law in January 2020, but Simmons said he crafted this legislation in direct response to that ruling.

What the court struck down was not specific to the photo ID, but it ruled that the additional option, to allow voters to sign a sworn affidavit and show another form of ID, like a utility bill or a bank statement, was “misleading and confusing.” Simmons removed that language from his legislation entirely.

Many Republicans in the chamber touted the bill as a way to ensure safe and fair elections. Though Democrats pointed out that widespread voter fraud in Missouri and the country was not prevalent enough to change any elections, Rep. Dottie Bailey, R-Eureka, said “across the country there have been 1,311 proven instances of voter fraud” and cited a few examples in Missouri in recent years.

“This is a fantastic bill,” she said. “Enough with the gaslighting and talking points. We want secure elections.”

With a vote of 109-46, the legislation will now head to the Senate.

Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio

Jaclyn Driscoll is the Jefferson City statehouse reporter for St. Louis Public Radio. She joined the politics team in 2019 after spending two years at the Springfield, Illinois NPR affiliate. Jaclyn covered a variety of issues at the statehouse for all of Illinois' public radio stations, but focused primarily on public health and agriculture related policy. Before joining public radio, Jaclyn reported for a couple television stations in Illinois and Iowa as a general assignment reporter.