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Missouri: Proposed Photo ID Legislation Failed PDF  | Print |  Email
By Missourians for Fair Elections   
May 16, 2008
Constitutional Change to Restrict Voting Rights Faced Groundswell of Opposition from Across the State

In a victory for all voters, Missouri lawmakers ended this year’s legislative session without a final vote on legislation that could have prevented up to 240,000 Missourians from voting. The proposed change would have altered Missouri’s constitution, allowing for strict citizenship and government-issued photo ID requirements that would make Missouri one of the toughest states in the country for eligible, law-abiding citizens to register to vote or cast a ballot.

“I am relieved that I will be able to vote this fall,” said Lillie Lewis, a St. Louis city resident, “I’ve been voting in every election since I can remember, but if I needed my birth certificate, that would be the end of that. I hope this is the last we hear of this nonsense.” Lillie Lewis was born in Mississippi, but the state sent her a letter stating they have no record of her birth.

Birdell Owen, a Missouri resident who was displaced by hurricane Katrina, also voiced her relief. “I should be able to participate in my democracy,” she said, “even if Louisiana can’t get me a copy of my birth certificate. I’m glad Missouri politicians had the sense to protect my right to vote.”

As the bill began to move, a broad coalition of groups and voters across the state worked to educate citizens and legislators about the negative impact of such policy changes on real voters. Missourians for Fair Elections reports over 4,200 calls were made to lawmakers in the past two weeks urging them to not consider this legislation. Catholic organizations, such as the Franciscan Sisters of Saint Mary, and the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas issued statements voicing deep concerns with the legislation. The AARP, League of Women Voters, labor organizations, disability advocates, community organizations and progressive leaders worked around the clock for the past two weeks to make sure the concerns of Missouri voters were heard.

In 2006, despite serious opposition from voting rights experts, election officials and voters, the Missouri legislature passed an overly-restrictive photo ID measure that was later found unconstitutional by the Missouri Supreme Court because it amounted to a poll tax and Missouri’s current identification requirements are sufficient. This year’s proposed legislation would have altered the constitution in an attempt to allow restrictive voting laws to pass constitutional muster. Such restrictive laws include government-issued photo ID and proof of citizenship requirements to register to vote and to vote.

Kathleen Weinschenk, of Columbia, Missouri, has been fighting to protect her right to vote, and that of others, since 2006. She has cerebral palsy, and doesn’t drive because of her disability. Without a birth certificate from Arkansas, she cannot get a Missouri photo ID. Kathleen is elated that the constitution will not be changed to prohibit her from voting. “Today, freedom rings,” she said.
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