The sponsor of the voter photo-ID law that has been thrown out by the state supreme court still believes the reasons behind his bill are good—although the court says the position is without foundation. The sponsor of the bill, Senator Delbert Scott of Lowry City, says Missouri voters understand there is voter fraud and his bill was enacted to stop it. But the supreme court says parties to the case all admit the law would not have affected absentee ballot fraud or registration fraud… Scott points to efforts in St. Louis and Kansas City to file apparently fraudulent registrations—although election officials in both cities say their procedures under existing laws and policies caught those attempts. But the state supreme court says the identification requirement in his law did not address “any perception of voter fraud with precision, nor is it necessary to solve any existing voter fraud problems. Furthermore, the court says there has been no evidence of voter impersonation fraud in Missouri since the legislature passed a different law four years ago. Scott says he’ll use the court ruling as a guide to writing a new voter photo-ID bill next year.
State Supreme Court judges hear arguments about whether a law requiring Missouirans to display a photo ID to vote should be in effect next month. Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan struck down the law earlier, saying it was an infringement on the fundamental right to vote. The case before the court combines two lawsuits. One argues that the law would disinfranchise the more than 200,000 Missourians who don’t have a driver’s license. The other argues that the law enforces an unfunded mandate by requiring election authorities to deal with added costs without added compensation.
Retired Supreme Court Judge Charles Blackmar sat in for a judge who recused himself and pressed Attorney Thor Hearne on the cost of the Voter Photo ID law, which would require some to buy documents to obtain a free ID from the state, saying it smacked of a poll tax. Hearne flatly rejected such a characterization. Even if it isn’t a poll tax, opposing Attorney Don Downing argued it would require some to pay to vote, because some without proper ID would have to buy a birth certificate or other documents to obtain one of the free identification cards the state is issuing. A ruling is expected quickly to settle the issue well before the election.
As both sides prepare to argue the Voter Photo ID case before the State Supreme Court, a Missouri Congressman tells his story about coping with the new law. West-Central Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton doesn’t drive, so he went to his hometown of Lexington to the Lafayette County license bureau to pick up his non-driver’s license photo ID needed under the new law to vote. But officials in Jefferson City told local license bureau workers that Skelton’s Congressional identification wasn’t sufficient, that he would need to present a birth certificate or passport. Skelton says he returned a month later with the passport that he had left in his Congressional office in Washington, D. C. He presented the passport and received the non-driver’s license ID. Skelton still can’t believe his Congressional ID wasn’t sufficient. He notes it’s sufficient to get him on and off airplanes. He says no one has ever questioned it and he’s flabbergasted that it wasn’t accepted. A circuit judge has thrown the Voter Photo ID law out. Whether it is reinstated will be up to the State Supreme Court, which hears the case on Wednesday.
Whether Missourians will have to display photo identification before casting a ballot in November will be decided by the State Supreme Court. The court has agreed to hear the case the first of October. Lawyers must file their paperwork by next week. The court will hear the case October 4th. Attorney Thor Hearne represents the sponsor of the law, Sen. Delbert Scott (R-Lowry City). Hearne’s counting on the Supreme Court to overturn a circuit judge’s ruling that threw the law out. The ruling though, by Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan, was broad, finding the requirement that voters display photo identification at the polls violated the fundamental right to vote outlined in the state constitution. Hearne rejects Callahan’s reasons. He says the legislature made provisions in the law to give away free IDs to the upwards of 200,000 Missourians who don’t have one. The judge noted that many would have to pay for documents needed to obtain the free IDs.
Attorney General Jay Nixon is asking the State Supreme Court for an expedited review of a Cole County judge’s ruling on Missouri’s new voter photo identification law. Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan struck down the law as unconstitutional. But that ruling is being appealed. The Attorney General’s office is joined by the Secretary of State in asking the Supreme Court to expedite the review.
The voter photo ID fight now has shifted to Washington. Only days after a Jefferson City judge ruled a state law requiring voters display photo identification to vote was unconstitutional, the U.S. House has approved such a measure. Just as in Missouri, the issue breaks along party lines. The House in Washington voted 288-196 to require a photo ID in federal elections, beginning in 2008. Proof of citizenship would be required by 2010.
A ruling striking down the Voter Photo ID law will be appealed. Senator Delbert Scott (R-Lowry City), the sponsor of the bill during this year’s legislative session, says the case hasn’t ended with the ruling handed down by Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan. Scott says he’s disappointed with the broad scope of the ruling. Callahan struck down several aspects of the bill, saying they violated the state constitution by infringing on the fundamental right to vote. The only bright spot Scott finds in the ruling is that Callahan dismissed suggestions that legislators pushed the bill, because they wanted to keep certain people from voting. The lawsuit combined two complaints, one of which contained a claim that Republicans pushed the bill through the legislature to suppress Democrat votes, especially ballots cast by black voters. Scott says he has been talking with his attorney. He says no legal strategy has been determined yet. Both sides in the lawsuit predicted the legal challenge will eventually end up before the State Supreme Court.
Critics of the Voter Photo ID law question whether the state can get free identifications into the hands of everyone who wants one by the November election. Though State Revenue Department Director Trish Vincent is optimistc the program to distribute free identification will go well, she acknowledges that only 1,800 have been given out. The Revenue Department estimates as many as 170,000 voting-age Missourians don’t have photo ID’s. The Secretary of State office says it’s closer to 240,000. Lawsuits filed against the Voter Photo ID law criticize the provisions for obtaining a free ID and question whether the state can get free ID’s into the hands of everyone who wants one. Vincent says the Revenue Department has completed 22 visits to retirement facilites and have 80 more are scheduled. Also, free ID’s are offered at the 183 license fee offices across the state. Vincent isn’t convinced that all 170,000 to 240,000 Missourians talked about need or want the free ID’s. Vincent promises the department will do whatever is necessary to get the ID’s into the hands of people who need them.
One of the more serious charges made in a lawsuit filed against the new Voter Photo ID law is that it seeks not to eliminate fraud, but to suppress Democrat votes. The accusation comes in the lawsuit filed by Attorney Don Downing, who has argued in court that the Republican majorities in the Senate and House as well as Governor Blunt’s office pushed for photo identification to suppress the black vote. Downing acknowledges it’s a charge difficult to prove in court. The threshold to prove purposeful discrimination is high. Downing claims that even if he can’t prove it in court, it is a fact. It’s a claim vigorously denied by Attorney Thor Hearne, who represents the sponsor of the law, Senator Delbert Scott (R-Lowry City). Hearne says it’s an argument that Judge Richard Callahan has been reluctant to embrace. In fact, Hearne says the judge has indicated he will reject the argument. Both sides are awaiting a ruling from circuit court, with the losing side sure to appeal the case to the State Supreme Court.
A federal lawsuit has been filed against Missouri’s new law that requires voters display photo identification to cast a ballot. The lawsuit, filed in the Western District Court of Missouri, claims the new law violates the US Constitution as well as federal voting laws. A host of groups as well as two individuals filed the lawsuit. Attorney David Becker with People for the American Way says the new law amounts to a poll tax, because it would require people to buy underlying documents to receive a free photo ID from the state. New federal rules require a birth certificate to get a driver’s license and require many married women to produce a marriage certificate to document their change of name. The lawsuit claims that one of the plaintiffs, Maria Frencher of Kansas City, faces insurmountable obstacles in acquiring the needed identification, even though she has been a registered voter for 13 years. The federal lawsuit comes even as a circuit judge is considering the arguments made in a state lawsuit filed against the law.
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