A Jefferson City judge will weigh the evidence and the arguments made in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state’s new requirement that voters display photo identification in order to cast a ballot. Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan combined two lawsuits. One claims the Voter Photo ID violates the Hancock Amendment’s prohibition against the state imposing unfunded mandates. The other claims the law disenfranchises thousands of Missourians who don’t have photo identification.During a court hearing Wednesday in the Cole County Courthouse, Attorney Burton Newman of St. Louis argued that the law imposes new costs to local election authorities without providing additional state revenue to pay for them. He claimed that St. Louis County alone will incur an estimated $250,000 in extra costs, because of the law. Judge Callahan questioned his reasoning, asking if any change in state law that requires additional costs to local officials violates Hancock. Newman answered that the law created new requirements with fixed costs assessed to them. Assistant Attorney General Robert Presson countered the argument by claiming the new law imposes no mandate. He argued that the only mandate is on voters. They must obtain an identification with their photograph.St. Louis Attorney Don Downing claimed that the law targets the poor, the uneducated and minorities. He charged that the new law imposes a burdensome hindrance that will keep some Missourians from voting. Downing told the judge the law makes payment of a fee a requirement to vote. He said that while the legislature included a provision to provide those without driver’s licenses a free photo ID, it didn’t waive the fee for the underlying documents needed to get an ID. Attorney Thor Hearne, who represents the legislative sponsor of the law, countered that under Downing’s argument, virtually all regulation of voting would be eliminated. Hearne argued that courts reviewing similar photo ID voting requirements in Georgia and Indiana found no merit in the argument that the state didn’t pay for the underlying documentation needed to acquire a photo ID. Judge Callahan responded to Hearne’s assertion by stating that he wasn’t sure Missouri’s law is the same as those passed in the other two states. Downing has insisted that the state hasn’t experienced voter fraud the past few elections and that there is no compelling need for the photo ID requirement. Hearne claimed the compelling interest is to run a fraud-free election.Judge Callahan told the attorneys he hopes to issue a ruling in about a week. The case is expected to eventually come before the State Supreme Court.
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