April 23, 2014

Voter ID bill heavily criticized as ‘modern day poll tax’ (AUDIO)

A bill that would require a photo identification for voters to cast a ballot has voted out of the House Elections Committee.

Even amid much opposition, the committee voted 7-3 “do pass” on the bill and sent it on to the full House. No one testified in favor of the bill.

Jeremy LaFaver with the American Civil Liberties Union says sponsor Shane Schoeller’s — a Republican from Willard — argument that a photo ID is necessary to rent a movie or board a plane just doesn’t fly.

“True, boarding a plane does require a photo ID, but it’s not a constitutional right. Voting is,” he says. And he corrects Schoeller that with the popularity of Red Box kiosks, one can rent a movie without an ID, which is irrelevant since “renting a movie is not a constitutional right, and voting is.”

LaFaver and others tell committee members the bill would impact nearly 300,000 voters in Missouri, enough to swing any election.

LaFaver tells committee members that’s why the bill was struck down by the State Supreme Court. Gov. Nixon vetoed a similar measure last year.

Schoeller says the measure would prevent fraudulent votes, and he believes the people of Missouri want to be assured that elections are fair. He thinks the provisions in the bill that raised questions in the past have been corrected in this version. Rep. Stanley Cox (R-Sedalia) says 17 other states have voter ID requirements in various forms.

Opponents say it would disenfranchise the poor, elderly and disabled.

LaFaver says it took him 14 hours to register his vehicle in downtown Kansas City, which would be a pretty expensive day for someone who only makes $10 an hour.

“I would say that’s a pretty significant tax on voting,” he says. “I can’t imagine taking two buses and waiting in line all day only to be told I didn’t have the proper documentation or paperwork, or the office closes and I have to do it all over the next day … if I were disabled or elderly…”

Ron Berry, a lobbyist with the Secretary of State’s Office, says the fiscal note on the bill is $16 Million, but Denise Lieberman, who says she represents about two dozen organizations opposing the bill and is a professor at Washington University specializing in voting rights and election law, says the cost of such a measure could be much greater.

The State of Georgia had to launch an extremely large public awareness campaign at a huge expense to the state, she tells the committee, in order to implement the law according to the court’s standards there. That included letters, notices in utility bills, radio and television public service announcements and more.

Farilyn Hale, president of the National Council of Jewish Women in St. Louis, says many Holocost survivors in Missouri do not have access to a birth certificate or other documentation, and the same problem has been encountered by many Russian Jews who immigrated to the United States, legally, a few decades ago.

Rep. Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis) took umbrage with a portion of the bill that says persons lacking proper ID at the polls can cast provisional ballots, which are then certified later by county clerks to be counted. Provisional ballots are only used in Presidential and statewide elections. Newman says that takes away the voice of thousands of people in local elections.

AUDIO: Jessica Machetta reports (1:08)