Republicans Seek to Deny Voting Rights for 170,000 Missourians
From the Springfield News-Leader:
Election officials in the Ozarks are waiting and watching as Missouri lawmakers consider a proposal to require photo identification for all voters.
"The devil will be in the details," said Greene County Clerk Richard Struckoff on Tuesday while he perused the bill, which runs to dozens of pages of provisions that would replace the current voter identification rules in the state.
"We really need to investigate this," he said. "One side says it's a barrier, others say it's not that much of a barrier, that most people have ID and it's necessary to prevent fraud."
The bill was filed Monday by Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry, who said, "The core of the whole issue is to restore voter confidence in Missouri's elections."
Only six other states require photo identification to vote.
The level of fraud the bill is intended to prevent appears low here.
Scott's bill would also expand the size of the buffer zone around polling places from 25 to 50 feet for people who are demonstrating or taking opinion polls, require registration of anyone involved in a voter registration drive, and prohibit payment for signing up new voters.
Mike Seitz, a spokesman for Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, said 170,000 people in Missouri don't have a photo ID, and 20 percent of those are seniors. Carnahan, he said, wants election reform that would "make it harder to cheat and easier to vote." The legislation, he said, needs to be implemented in a way that doesn't "get in the way of anyone's right to vote."
Scott's bill would still allow casting provisional ballots — votes that are counted only if the voter is later proven to be eligible — if the voter was unable to obtain photo ID because of physical or mental disabilities or because the voter had a religious belief opposing photo identification.
170,000 Missourians don't have state identification--and requiring a photo id (fee required), while seemingly an innocent enough requirement, would be an indirect poll tax. The bill contains language requiring the state to issue a free identification for such voters--but that won't help for thousands of voters who discover the need on election day. Provisional voting would still be allowed--by Federal law. Under provisional voting, only federal election races are counted, eliminating state and local ballots for these voters.
Other provisions in the bill are indeed the "devil in the details" that Struckhoff cites. In the 2004 election, thousands of voters were registered by paid canvassers through efforts like ACT (America Coming Together). The bill would eliminate this kind of effort, and put barriers in front of volunteers before they could help someone get registered to vote. It also doubles the distance requirement from the election polls for exit pollsters, electioneering, and demonstrators.
In an interview on KSMU, Struckhoff, expressed his doubts of need for the bill and said "We should take a good hard look at how this is working out in other states," beore implementing it here.
Scott's bill is a naked partisan power play with Missourians caught in the middle. It's quite hypocritical for the Republicans to espouse democracy for Iraq, while limiting access to the polls at home.