February 9, 2016

Senate Democrats likely to filibuster voter photo ID proposals

The state senate could soon debate a voter photo ID measure, but Democrats are prepared to try to block it.

Senator Jamilah Nasheed (at podium) and Senate Minority Leader Joe Keaveny

Senator Jamilah Nasheed (at podium) and Senate Minority Leader Joe Keaveny

A bill that would create the statutory framework for voter photo ID and a resolution that would ask voters to change the state constitution to allow it are awaiting votes in a Senate committee. Senator Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis) says she and other Senate Democrats are prepared to stand in their way.

“I will not sit down or stand down on a voter ID bill that would disenfranchise hundreds and hundreds of Missourians – mainly African-Americans and seniors,” said Nasheed.

Nasheed and other Democrats say many voters in those groups don’t have the documentation needed to get a photo ID and could have to pay to get it. Opponents, then, equate the bill to a poll tax. Republicans say their proposals would provide the necessary documents for anyone who doesn’t have them, and say they are necessary to block voter impersonation fraud.

With the idea requiring having to go before voters, Nasheed says it’s partly an effort to get more Republicans to the polls when important races are up, such as those for president and Missouri governor, but she predicts that will backfire.

“They’re going to wake up the sleeping giant within the Democratic party because what you’re going to see is individuals within the party – they’re going to feel like their voter rights are being attacked, and they’re going to turn out to vote in a way that they have never seen before, especially the African-American community,” said Nasheed.

Republican leaders in the Senate acknowledge the issue is divisive and they expect to spend a lot of time on it, but Senate President Ron Richard (R-Joplin) says he’s not planning to use a previous question – a procedural move that would stop debate, or a filibuster, and force a vote on the legislation.

“Not at this time,” said Richard. “The caucus hasn’t given me direction on that … nah, we’re a long way from talking about that stuff.”

Voter photo ID measures clear Missouri House

The state House has sent the Senate proposals to require Missourians to have photo IDs to vote. One proposal in the House would ask voters to change the state constitution so it would allow voter photo ID, and the other would create the structure in law for it.

Representative Tony Dugger (left) sponsors the proposed constitutional change to allow voter photo ID, and Representative Justin Alferman sponsors the change in Missouri statute to create a framework for it.  (photos courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Tony Dugger (left) sponsors the proposed constitutional change to allow voter photo ID, and Representative Justin Alferman sponsors the change in Missouri statute to create a framework for it. (photos courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

A voter photo ID requirement was struck down by the state Supreme Court in 2006 because it required people to pay to get an ID, and any documents they would need to get one, such as a birth certificate.

The sponsor of the statutory language, Representative Justin Alferman (R-Hermann), says his bill addresses that concern.

“The tenants of which it was found to be an undue burden in 2006 was because we were not providing those documents, so yeah I would probably agree that was an undue burden,” said Alferman. He says under his bill, “If you do not have a license issued by the State of Missouri … the state of Missouri shall pay for one for you. If you do not have the source documentation to obtain a driver’s or a non-driver’s license, either that being from the State of Missouri or any other state, the State of Missouri will pay for the source documents.”

Like most Democrats, Representative Mike Colona (D-St. Louis) opposes voter photo ID. He asked Alferman how the state would pay for providing those IDs. The cost of his bill, in the first year after its implementation, is projected to be more than $10-million.

“Where’s the money going to come from? Do you want to take it from education? Do you want to take it from Mental Health? Do you want to take it from … the Department of Labor? Do you want to take it from our Conservation Department? Do you want to take it away from the legislature?”

Under Alferman’s bill, in any year the legislature and governor don’t agree to provide money to pay for people’s IDs and source documents, the voter photo ID requirement would be suspended.

Representative Judy Morgan (D-Kansas City) say it could rob some people of the right to vote, and isn’t necessary.

“No one can give recent, specific examples, documented and prosecuted, of the type of voter fraud that voter photo ID could prevent, and that’s voter impersonation. That’s why I have voted against these bills in the past and why I’ll vote against them today,” said Morgan.

The state Senate has its own version of those bills that have had a Senate committee hearing, but have not been voted on.

Bills to create Missouri voter photo ID system advance in House

Two proposals that would require a photo ID to vote have been advanced by a House committee. Representative Tony Dugger (R-Hartville) is proposing a constitutional amendment that would ask voters to approve requiring a photo ID at the polls. A bill sponsored by Representative Justin Alferman (R-Hermann) would set up the structure for voter photo ID if the ballot issue passes.

Rep. Justin Alferman, Photo courtesy of Tim Bommel, House Communications

Rep. Justin Alferman, Photo courtesy of Tim Bommel, House Communications

Opponents say requiring a photo ID would create barriers for voters, especially low-income and handicapped Missourians.

Clem Smith (D-Velda Village Hills) opposes the measures and said at a committee hearing Tuesday that Missouri should get Missouri driver’s licenses in compliance with federal standards first.

“I think we should make sure that our stuff is right. That we’re able to travel about in this country of ours or go into federal buildings before we’re sitting here acquiring this ID that may be worthless in a couple years,” said Smith.

Alferman asked Smith if denying access to people without proper ID into federal buildings should be unconstitutional.

Rep. Clem Smith (D-Velda Village Hills)

Rep. Clem Smith (D-Velda Village Hills)

“You have the right to vote in this country, just like you have the right to a trial by jury. If that trial is in a federal building, you have to provide a photo identification to step inside that federal building,” said Alferman.

Alferman questioned the integrity of the election process.

“Based upon the fact that I can go into a polling location with a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement or paycheck and sign a signature, the opportunity to commit voter impersonation under current law is very real,” said Alferman.

Smith told Alferman he doubts any changes are needed.

“So I guess you’ve questioned the election you’ve been in to get to this office, based off of the lack of ID requirements. I mean, all of our elections would be in question,” said Smith.

Representative Shamed Dogan (R-Ballwin) supports the measures and questioned if those without legal immigration status should be allowed to vote.

“How would we determine whether or not someone is eligible to vote,” said Dogan. “If they’re a non-citizen and they are not eligible to vote, how would we determine that without verifying their identity?”

The measures could be heard by the full House next week.

Missouri House committee to hear voter photo ID proposals Tuesday

Two voter photo ID proposals will be heard Tuesday by the Missouri House’s Elections committee. Representative Tony Dugger (R-Hartville) is proposing a constitutional amendment that would ask voters to approve requiring a photo ID at the polls. A companion bill sponsored by Representative Justin Alferman (R-Hermann) would create the structure for voter photo ID if the ballot issue passes.

Rep. Tony Dugger

Rep. Tony Dugger (R-Hartville)

Opponents say a significant number of Missourians don’t have the IDs they would need under the proposals.  Dugger said his proposal would still allow them to vote.

“They would actually get a provisional ballot, which is the same as a regular ballot,” said Dugger. “It is placed in an envelope and they would have so many days after the election to get their driver’s license and take it to the election authority. Then their vote would count.”

Critics say that’s not the same as letting people vote.

Dugger said the purpose of his bill is to prevent voter fraud.

Rep. Justin Alferman (R-Hermann)

Rep. Justin Alferman (R-Hermann)

“I think that every vote in the state is important. I want everybody to vote who’s entitled to vote, but I also want to make sure that there is no cheating going on in the state. I want everyone’s vote to be protected,” said Dugger.

A driver’s license, government-issued ID or a military photo ID would be accepted under his proposal.

 

 

Dueling petition efforts seek to raise Missouri cigarette tax

Two groups want to put a cigarette tax increase on the November 2016 ballot. The Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association (MPCA) has filed two initiative petitions to raise the tax by 23 cents per pack to support the state’s general revenue fund and to help finance Missouri’s roads and bridges. “Raise Your Hands For Kids” has filed an initiative petition to increase the tax by 50 cents per pack to help fund early childhood education and health screenings for infants and young children.

Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association

Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association

MPCA Executive Director Ron Leone said the Association, which opposed a cigarette tax hike proposal in 2013, is trying to be one step ahead of any other campaigns targeting a cigarette tax increase.

“We’re pretty sick and tired of always being on defense and always trying to oppose initiative petitions. So we wanted to, for a change, take control of our fate and go on offense,” said Leone.

“We obviously firmly believe that the people would in fact support a reasonable tax increase that doesn’t hurt consumers too bad, maintains the competitive advantage we have over our higher-tax border states and uses the money to help fund a state priority, which in this case would be transportation.”

Leone said the increase would generate about $80-$100 million annually. He said the money isn’t going to solve Missouri’s transportation issues, but it will help.

“Raise Your Hands For Kids” Board Chairperson Erin Brower said Missouri needs to do more for early childhood development.

Raise Your Hands For Kids

Raise Your Hands For Kids

“Right now, Missouri is ranked 49th for childcare subsidies. Out of 40 states with state-funded preschool, Missouri is 38th,” said Brower. “Really, we just don’t treat early childhood development as a priority in our state. So that’s why we look at the tobacco tax as a dedicated funding stream for something we know is the best economic development choice our state could make.”

Brower says the increase would generate about $225 million annually. She also said the additional revenue wouldn’t fix the state’s early childhood development problems, but she said the money would make an impact and leverage other public and private funding opportunities.

Missouri’s cigarette tax is the lowest in the nation, at 17 cents per pack.