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Sep
2016
20

The Show Me (Your License) State: MO GOP Overrides Gov’s Veto of Discriminatory Voter ID

Gov. Jay Nixon has a strong record on labor and civil rights

Gov. Jay Nixon has a strong record on labor and civil rights


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Missouri came one step closer to implementing a new voter identification law on Wednesday after the Republican state legislature overrode a veto by Democratic Governor Jay Nixon. The law requires voters to show a government issued ID before casting a ballot in an election.

Republicans claim the move is a common sense measure to protect against voter fraud, but Democrats rightly note that voter fraud is beyond rare and that voter ID laws disproportionately affect minority voters:

Missouri’s photo ID measure was opposed by the state NAACP, AARP and other advocates for minorities and the elderly. In a letter explaining his veto, Nixon said the measure would “disproportionately” impact senior citizens, people with disabilities and others who have been lawfully voting but don’t have the government-issued photo ID required under the bill.

A decade ago, the Missouri State Supreme Court ruled that a similar law violated the state’s constitution. This time, to make the law stick, voters will have to approve a ballot initiative to amend the Missouri constitution.

Recently, there have been a number of successful legal challenges to discriminatory voting laws in other states:

Several other states have faced legal challenges to their own voter ID laws, including several high-profile cases this summer. In July, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that North Carolina’s 2013 voter ID law targeted African American and young liberal voters with “almost surgical precision”: removing an early voting day that fell on a Sunday, for example, that many black churches traditionally used to bring voters to the polls. Earlier that month, a federal judge dismantled some portions of Texas’s voter ID laws, and similar proposals were blocked in Wisconsin and Kansas, as well.

Republicans believe they’ve softened the language sufficiently to make sure the legislation stands up in court:

Sponsoring state Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit, said Missouri’s law is more palatable than other states’ because of a provision that allows voters without a photo ID to sign a statement at the polls, swearing that they are who they say they are under penalty of perjury. Their vote then still counts so long as their signature matches the one on file.

“The statement makes sure no one is disenfranchised at all,” Kraus said.

The people of Missouri will have their chance to weigh in on November 8, provided they bring their ID.

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