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Report: Missouri voter-ID bill could disenfranchise 220,000

A proposed voter ID bill in Missouri could disenfranchise 220,000 registered voters, according to a new report released Tuesday.

A proposed voter ID bill in Missouri could disenfranchise 220,000 registered voters, according to an impact report released on Tuesday by Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander.

The report notes that passing House Bill 1073, which introduces new limitations on acceptable types of voter identification, would make Missouri’s voter laws some of the strictest in the country, alongside Indiana and Texas. To pass the bill, the state would first have to change their constitution. 

"Our state has one of the strongest voting rights provisions in the constitution anywhere in the country," Kander explained on Sunday's Melissa Harris-Perry. "The Republican strategy here is to amend our state constitution to weaken the voting rights provision and then pass the most extreme version of this kind of law in the country."

The proposed amendment would add language to the state constitution specifying that residency qualifications for voting "may include valid government-issued photo identification."

The state enacted a voter photo identification statue back in 2006 that was quickly struck down by the Missouri Supreme Court as a violation of the state constitution. In that decision, the Court wrote that the photo identification requirement "creates a heavy burden on the fundamental right to vote and is not narrowly tailored to meet a compelling state interest."

This latest move aims to preempt that challenge by changing the constitution first. The amendment would be placed on the ballot this November. 

Secretary of State Kander said on Saturday that he plans to fight against the law, citing his duty both to “make sure only eligible voters vote [and] making sure every eligible voter has the opportunity to vote.” He noted that voter impersonation fraud hasn’t been a problem in Missouri, but that the new law would create real impediments for voters.

He cited the cost of underlying documentation and missing work to travel and get photo identification as an added burden to exercise a constitutional right. He added that laws should aim to create more convenience for eligible voters, not less.

Kander has been working to enact that belief in his office. In December, he introduced an online voter registration tool, and noted on Saturday that he is continuing to work on bipartisan legislation to expand early voting. Currently, state voters can vote absentee if they provide a valid excuse for being unable to vote on Election Day, but there is no in-person early voting. Kander formed a bipartisan commission to address the issue his first day in office 13 months ago.