STL Post-Dispatch: Agreement reached in Missouri Senate over contentious voter ID proposal

By Jack Suntrup St. Louis Post-Dispatch

JEFFERSON CITY • Missouri Senate Democrats and Republicans have reached an agreement over a proposal that would require voters to show ID at the ballot box.

Under a version of the legislation adopted Monday, if voters don’t present a photo ID, they would sign a statement under penalty of perjury attesting that they are who they say they are. The voter would then have to present some form of ID, such as a university-issued ID or a utility bill.

“The bill is requirement of photo ID, and the statement is a way for them to be able to cast a normal ballot,” said state Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit. “But we want to make sure that they know it’s the law of the land that they have to get an ID.”

The bill also includes provisions for the state to pay for IDs. A provisional ballot could be cast and would count if the voter could later prove identity.

An earlier version of the measure advanced by the House also included funds for IDs and would have included some wiggle room for voters without IDs. But the exemptions weren’t as encompassing as the language adopted Monday.

Opponents of Missouri’s voter ID proposal argue it could disenfranchise and confuse an estimated 220,000 registered voters without a current ID. But proponents say requiring ID at the polls is necessary to stamp out any in-person fraud that may occur.

Though the measure advanced out of the House early in this year’s legislative session, the legislation has been stalled in the Senate with Democrats launching filibusters every time the bill has come up.

State Sen. Scott Sifton, D-Affton, said that he doesn’t plan to vote for the bill. But he said he doesn’t anticipate that Democrats will filibuster the proposal because of the concessions that had been made.

”I’ll say, Senator, I think as compared to some other approaches you see from time to time, the approach that you’ve taken with this bill is the right one to take,” Sifton told Kraus, the bill carrier, referring to his openness to discussing changes.

”A good piece of legislation is one where both sides walk away and say ‘you know, I’m not happy with exactly the way it looks, but it’s something I can live with,’” Kraus said.

State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, said she was ill and had to go to the urgent care while the new language was debated. She said she was surprised and disappointed that she didn’t have a chance to weigh in.

Nasheed said she wanted to continue the fight against the legislation, but acknowledged it would be tough without the rest of the Democratic caucus on board.

”I can’t do it by myself,” she said. “So I don’t know. I’m just trying to wrap my head around it all.”

Democrats who spoke on the legislation Monday said that they could continue to filibuster. But if they did so, they said they worried the GOP majority would force a vote on a bill without the compromise language.

To go into effect, voters would also have to approve a constitutional amendment requiring ID at the polls. Democratic state Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, said the body should amend the ballot resolution to include the compromise language. That would ensure the Legislature doesn’t try to pass a harsher voter ID bill in the future, she said.

But Kraus said he wasn’t open to amending the resolution.

No vote was taken on the bill or the resolution Monday. If passed by the Senate, because the bill language has changed, the House and Senate would have to come to a resolution before the proposal moves forward.

The legislation is House Bill 1631 and House Joint Resolution 53.

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