Missouri green-lights petition to put photo ID in the state’s constitution

Back in March, I highlighted an initiative petition filed by John Ashcroft’s son, Jay Ashcroft, that would put a constitutional amendment allowing the state to pass photo ID requirements for voting on the ballot in 2016.

As I wrote then:

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).

Yesterday, the Springfield News-Leader reported that Missouri’s Democratic Secretary of State, Jason Kander, has approved the petition for circulation.

One can’t help but wonder why Kander, a Democrat, would approve the petition if it were anything other than routine. Could he have decided that the prior Supreme Court decision made this proposed ballot initiative unconstitutional, or is approving petitions like these simply routine, with there being nothing he could do regardless as to how he felt about the bill?


Missouri’s county-by-county presidential map in 2012, via POLITICO

Complicating matters is the fact that Kander and Ashcroft will both be on the ballot in 2016. Kander is running for Senate; Ashcroft is running for Kander’s current Secretary of State office. Voter ID requirements remain widely popular across the country and in Missouri, despite the fact that a photo ID requirement in the state would place unnecessary voting restrictions on roughly 200,000 eligible voters — also known as Mitt Romney’s margin of victory in the state in 2012 and the equivalent of seven percent (!) of the state’s presidential electorate. Ashcroft wants it on the ballot in order to associate himself with a popular policy and drive up turnout; Kander may just want to avoid being attacked over the issue, or be seen as blocking the requirement for political purposes.

After all, if a Democrat blocks voter ID requirements in a red state in an election year, the attack ads write themselves.

However, as one could probably guess, the kind of voter fraud that could be prevented with a photo ID requirement is, for all intents and purposes, nonexistent in Missouri — even tough allegations of fraud led the town of Kinloch from refusing to swear in a newly-elected African-American mayor and alderman earlier this year.

I wonder why Republicans in the town thought the election wasn’t legit.

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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