(St. Louis) -- Students and young voters at Saint Louis University are providing fresh opinions about two new bills passed by Missouri legislators last month that may require voters to present Missouri photo identification at the polling place.
“Obviously, no one sponsoring it is going to say it, but I think [the legislation] disenfranchises blocks of voters who traditionally vote for Democrats or liberals: the college students, the poor, the elderly,” said Patrick Grillot, a SLU student and co-founder of SLU Students for Voters’ Rights.
The bills, SB3 and SJR2, allow a referendum to be placed on the November 2012 election ballot. The referendum will ask voters whether or not to amend the Missouri Constitution to require state photo identification to vote in Missouri elections.
Supporters say these bills aim to prevent voter fraud at the polling place; however, the Missouri secretary of state has not reported incidents of voter fraud at Missouri polling places in the past.
The proposal and passage of these bills has caused a stir within the state. Many question the true intentions of those pushing the bills.
SLU Students for Voters’ Rights is a group of SLU students opposed to the passage of these bills who attempted to fight against the legislation. The co-founders, Thomas Bloom and Grillot, wrote an open letter to the Missouri General Assembly and Gov. Jay Nixon expressing students’ disapproval of the bills, as they feel requiring photo ID will restrict the voting rights of students.
If voters choose to amend the constitution, the 1,509 students registered at the Busch Student Center polling place at SLU will be required to re-register to vote at their permanent address or obtain a Missouri state ID. This means that any students registered to vote in Missouri elections will no longer be able to present their student IDs as a form of identification.
With a drastic decrease in registered voters, there is a chance that the BSC will lose its polling place altogether, causing a greater hassle for students to find a close location to vote.
These bills brought about disagreements among SLU students across campus.
“I think [the legislation] is generally a good idea because I’m not really a constituent of St. Louis... I don’t really see the point in fighting that legislation,” said Mike Kennedy, a sophomore at SLU.
Other students see the bills not as a bi-partisan issue to be debated but rather a wake-up call for students to take note of the changes occurring around them.
“I definitely think, in my opinion, students are more inclined to be apathetic...You always hear the term ‘SLU bubble’ thrown around…and I think it has some truth to it,” said Sean Worley, a SLU sophomore. “I think, at the very least, students need to be aware of what’s going on.”
According to Demos, a non-partisan public policy research and advocacy organization, the implementation of new photo ID laws in Missouri could cost the state more than $20 million over the next few years.
Another problem arises for the 229,881 Missouri voters who currently lack a valid photo ID. Although the state ID fee would be waived with the passage of the amendment, there are often costs associated with the documents required in order to obtain a Missouri state ID, such as a birth certificate, passport or naturalization papers.
Grillot believes that requiring these documents may prevent and discourage an even larger group of citizens from exercising their right to vote.
Although the bills are aimed at reducing voter fraud, those opposed argue that there are many other implications to be taken into account before voting to change Missouri’s constitution. Worley provided his own advice to fellow students who are up in arms about whether or not the constitution should be changed.
“No matter what a student decides upon, no matter what stance they take, they just need to be informed. There’s always going to be two vocal opposing sides, and they’re always going to choose which information they project into the wider population. It’s the responsibility of the student… to know all sides of it, and I think that can be seen in this specific legislation,” said Worley.
Lizzie Bartek and Kati Cundari are students at Saint Louis University