John Ashcroft’s son pushing constitutional amendment to allow voter ID in Missouri

St. Louis attorney Jay Ashcroft, son of former Attorney General John Ashcroft, is running for Missouri secretary of state as a Republican. And in order to brush up on his conservative bona fides in advance of a primary, he filed an initiative petition on Thursday that would pave the way for a constitutional amendment in the state that would permit the legislature to pass photo ID voting requirements, per the Associated Press.

Missouri’s Supreme Court declared photo ID requirements for voting unconstitutional in 2006, holding that voting is a fundamental right and is therefore subject to heightened scrutiny when restrictions are proposed. Missouri currently has an ID law on the books, but it does not require a photo (a utility bill, bank statement or paycheck suffices).

Ashcroft’s petition seems to be even more of a political ploy when one considers that his primary opponent, State Senator Will Kraus, has already sponsored legislation that would both put a constitutional amendment allowing photo ID on the 2016 ballot and deem photo ID requirements to be state law after such an amendment was approved by the voters. Student IDs and expired IDs would not be accepted, which would put Missouri’s ID law on par with Texas’s and Indiana’s as the most restrictive in the nation. Past attempts at additional voter ID laws in Missouri — pushed by Republicans in the state every year since the court ruling — have been blocked by the Democratic State Senate or vetoed by Democratic Governor Jay Nixon.

Republicans in the state have also argued that reducing early voting hours is crucial in combatting voter fraud.

If Missouri passed a photo ID requirement, as many as 200,000 voters in the state would be affected. As one could probably guess, what few cases of voter fraud that have been documented in Missouri since 2006 would not have been prevented by a photo ID requirement. However, that didn’t stop the town of Kinloch from refusing to swear in its newly-elected African American mayor and alderman earlier this year over allegations of fraud.

As if one needed further reason to believe that these attempts to keep those who lack photo identification from the polls are anything more than a political maneuver to keep predominantly African-American low-income voters from the polls, one need only look at Missouri’s county-by-county map from the 2012 election:



Those blue dots are, from left to right, counties representing Kansas City, Columbia and St. Louis, urban centers that hold much of the state’s African-American population and which voted for President Obama; the rest of the state was deep red. What’s more, Mitt Romney’s ten-point margin of victory came out to just over 200,000 votes, or the number of Missourians who lack a photo ID.

Put another way, if passed, Missouri’s photo ID law could disenfranchise over seven percent of the state’s presidential electorate. All for a a performative, nativist attempt by Republican politicians in the state to prove to their pearly white constituents who’s got the least inclusive interpretation of the democratic ideal.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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