JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- The Missouri House endorsed a proposed constitutional amendment Monday that is designed to help resurrect a requirement that voters show government-issued photo identification to cast ballots.
The measure would add to the Missouri Constitution authorization for an advance voting period and a photo ID requirement, but the details of how those would work is left to a separate bill that would take effect only if voters approve the constitutional amendment.
House members voted 102-55 on Monday to approve the constitutional amendment but made some changes to a version that already cleared the Senate earlier this year. That means the measure now goes back to the Senate, where lawmakers can accept the House's changes or seek negotiations. Lawmakers have until the end of next week to pass legislation, and the House was expected to debate the companion legislation later.
A 2006 Missouri law required voters to show a government-issued photo ID, but it was struck down by the state Supreme Court as an unconstitutional infringement on the fundamental right to vote. Republican lawmakers this year are seeking to get around that Supreme Court decision with the specific allowance for a photo ID requirement in the state constitution. The proposed constitutional amendment would appear on a 2012 ballot.
Rep. Stanley Cox, who is sponsoring the constitutional amendment in the House, said requiring a photo ID to vote would help to protect Missouri elections by combatting voter fraud. He said while lawmakers should be looking for ways to make it easier to vote, it also is important to make it harder for people to cheat at the polls.
"If you cheat, you water down our votes," said Cox, R-Sedalia. "You deny us the right to vote."
Missouri voters already have the option of showing a driver's license or other government-issued photo ID when they go to the polls. But state law also allows voters to prove their identity with documents that do not contain photographs, such as copies of current utility bills, bank statements or paychecks listing their names and addresses.
Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan has opposed a photo identification requirement, insisting there have been no instances of people impersonating other voters at the polls.
House members who oppose the constitutional amendment said requiring a government-issued photo ID could disenfranchise minorities, the poor and students who have been able to vote previously in an effort to solve a supposed voter fraud problem that is not really an issue.
"This is a fundamental right. We should be looking to expand voting, to encourage voting not to defeating one's ability to vote especially in the absence of any credible data that it's a problem," said Rep. Jean Peters-Baker, D-Kansas City.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)