September 15, 2014

House Committee hears voter photo ID proposal

The House Elections Committee has heard more than two hours of testimony against legislation to require Missouri voters to show photo identification at the polls.

Representative Tony Dugger presents his voter photo ID bill to the House Elections Committee.  (Photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications.)

Representative Tony Dugger presents his voter photo ID bill to the House Elections Committee. (Photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications.)

The bill, House Bill 48, is accompanied by a proposed constitutional change, HJR5 that would allow the bill to become law after the Supreme Court declared a 2006 photo ID law unconstitutional. That means if the proposal clears the legislature it would go before Missouri voters.

The sponsor of both proposals, Rep. Tony Dugger (R-Hartville) says he files the legislation out of concern for the potential for fraud.

“In the 14 years that I was county clerk, every time that you would mail these voter ID cards out, I would get someone who would come into my office and bring me some cards and say, ‘These got delivered to my mailbox. I have no idea who they are,’” he says. “They don’t know who they are but their cards ended up in their mailbox, and it happens in every election. There’s just that chance out there that somebody could take that card, and that’s a form of ID that could currently be used … and vote with it.”

Dugger says there is no reason for someone to commit voter registration fraud if they don’t intend to commit voter fraud.  His bill would allow anyone who can not produce proper ID at a polling place to cast a provisional ballot. Secretary of State spokesman John Scott says that’s not good enough.

“In the 2012 election on ly 25 percent of provisional ballots were counted, so to say that you aren’t disenfranchising eligible Missourians because you will offer a provisional ballot doesn’t necessarily line up with the facts,” Scott says.

Rep. Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis) says she believes Scott’s bill was written by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative organization known for writing model legislation.

She told Dugger, “If this had some merit, I don’t understand why some of your own party colleagues are now saying, after the November election, that this was designed to prevent people from voting.”

Rep. Brandon Ellington (D-Kansas City) testified against the bill, saying this measure and bills like it in other states have been filed in response to the election of President Barack Obama.

“We’ve seen these new, restrictive laws after 2008, which in my opinion shows a biasness [sic] in American society when we have a president of color and all of a sudden we’re questioning the legitimacy of people’s votes,” he says. “We never questioned the legitimacy of people’s votes in 2000 when Florida had they’re imbalances in they’re voting procedures, but all of a sudden we want to have these restrictive voter ID laws.”

Rep. Stanley Cox (R-Sedalia) said he was “perplexed” by Ellington’s testimony.

“I have never seen a state representative come to a committee … accuse the proponent of this bill of essentially racism,” Cox says.

Cox told Ellington he owed Dugger an apology.

Opponents of photo voter ID in Missouri say it would disenfranchise 250,00 people. Cox says that number is misleading.

He asked Scott, “Is it recognized that our voter rolls are hyper inflated with people that don’t exist, throughout our state? Dead people … there are at least four counties in this state that have more registered voters than people live in those counties, is that correct?”

Scott disagreed, to which Cox added, “OK, and so to match those figures is a meaningless fact.”

No one testified to the committee in favor of the two proposals. The committee has not voted on them.