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Missouri lawmakers approve a photo ID requirement for voters

A voter fills out her ballot at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, Mo., on Election Day in 2020.
Charlie Riedel
A voter fills out her ballot at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, Mo., on Election Day in 2020.

Two years after the Missouri Supreme Court struck down a similar measure, the state's Republican-led lawmakers on Thursday passed a bill that would require residents to have photo identification to cast a ballot.

"We already have a good system, we just had to make sure it's always better, because Missourians want and deserve to know that their election system is trustworthy," said GOP state Rep. John Simmons, the legislation's sponsor.

The requirement, part of a larger elections bill, passed the House on a party-line 97-47 vote. It now goes to Republican Gov. Mike Parson.

Missouri was one of the first states that tried to enact strict voter ID requirements, but the effort was long tangled in legal challenges.

In the new measure, if a voter didn't have a photo ID with them, they could cast a provisional ballot, which would only be counted if they returned to the polling place with a required ID or if election officials verified their signature.

Among its other provisions, the bill would allow the secretary of state, currently Republican Jay Ashcroft, to review the list of registered voters in any jurisdiction. And electronic voting machines would be banned after 2024, except in cases where a voter with a disability cannot use a paper ballot. Those machines, however, would be required to have a paper trail for a potential election review.

In addition, local election authorities could no longer accept funding from outside organizations — language targeted at Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, who funded grant money that was distributed to election offices throughout the country.

Missouri would join more than a dozen states — all with Republican-controlled legislatures — that have enacted laws that prevent local election officials from accepting donations since voting ended in 2020,

Missouri lawmakers also stripped all of the state's provisions that made it easier for individuals to vote during the early days of the pandemic.

Democrats were able to secure some of their election-related priorities, including a two-week window for no-reason early absentee voting.

But they were furious at their colleagues in the Senate for not doing more to delay photo ID.

"This is a shameful day," said Democratic state Rep. Rasheen Aldridge. "Hopefully we eventually have senators with a little bit more integrity [who are] going to stand up and fight."

Senate Minority Floor Leader John Rizzo said that he respected the opinion of his fellow Democrats but that it was difficult to fight what was a top priority for Republicans.

"We didn't vote for the bill," he said. "We tried to do the best we could without getting something absolutely horrible shoved down our throat, which was a real possibility."

Copyright 2022 St. Louis Public Radio

Lippmann returned to her native St. Louis after spending two years covering state government in Lansing, Michigan. She earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and followed (though not directly) in Maria Altman's footsteps in Springfield, also earning her graduate degree in public affairs reporting. She's also done reporting stints in Detroit, Michigan and Austin, Texas. Rachel likes to fill her free time with good books, good friends, good food, and good baseball.
Sarah Kellogg