Missouri’s secretary of state says new photo-ID requirements shouldn’t keep people from the polls.
“If you’re registered to vote in the state of Missouri, you can vote,” Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said in a town-hall style meeting Tuesday evening in Independence. Others at the meeting challenged the new voting rules that Missouri voters approved last November, but Ashcroft said his office is committed to clearing up any confusion and, when needed, helping people who need to get the right ID.
The new rules have already gone into effect.
As Ashcroft explained it, the rules are these:
• A registered voter who shows a Missouri driver’s license, a Missouri non-driver’s license, a passport or a military ID can vote.
• A registered voter can show what Ashcroft called a secondary ID. Those are a utility bill; a bank statement; a government check; a paycheck; an ID from a Missouri university, college, or vocational or technical school; or another government document showing the voter’s name and address. That voter then has to sign a document acknowledging that state law requires a photo ID, that the voter doesn’t have one and that the state will provide a free ID. “We can help you get that identification free of charge,” Ashcroft said.
• A registered voter with no ID at all can cast a provisional ballot. That ballot goes into a separate envelope, and it’s counted when the local election authority matches up the voter’s signature with the signature that’s on record, or when she comes back with a valid ID. The voter can call the election board afterward to make sure that ballot was counted. Ashcroft said casting a provisional ballot takes about two minutes longer than regular voting.
Bob Hill, minister emeritus of Community Christian Church and community engagement coordinator for a civic group called What U Can Do, opposed the new law when it was before the voters last fall, and on Tuesday he raised some questions and leveled some criticisms.
He said the history in states across the country is clear: Voter ID laws have been pushed by only one party – Republicans – and have disproportionately limited voting among people of color, veterans, seniors and students.
“In other states, it has suppressed voter turnout. It has suppressed registration,” he said. Hill conceded that Missouri has been “very good and careful” about writing and implementing its law but also said he and others will be watching closely to see if it hampers voter turnout.
Ashcroft pressed back hard.
“Who does this prevent from voting?” he asked, stressing that the state will provide free IDs – even track down needed documents such as birth certificates – to those who need them.
“If you can show me someone that can’t vote,” Ashcroft said, “I’ll get that changed.”
Hill said rounding up the needed documents to register to vote, such as going to the county health department for a birth certificate, presents obstacles for some.
“What poor person with a job can go get a photo ID between 8 and 5?” he asked.
Tammy Brown, co-director of the Jackson County Election Board, pointed out that other places where a voter can register, such as the DMV, have extended hours.
Hill said he’s concerned that some will find the new rules intimidating, and some asked if poll workers will tell a voter without the right ID all of his options, such as voting provisionally. Brown said that will be in their training.
State Rep. Ingrid Burnett, D-Kansas City, convened Tuesday’s meeting.
“There’s a lot of anxiety for people and what it means about accessibility to the polls,” she said.
Speakers did agree that it’s important that people get out and vote. Independence has a single issue on the Aug. 8 ballot, an extension of the streets sales tax. Elections held outside November tend to have poor turnouts, sometimes near single digits.
“Come out,” Ashcroft said. “Let your voice be heard.”