There have been numerous examples of voter fraud that have occurred around the country and here in our own state. One of the most outrageous occurrences happened several years ago in St. Louis where Ritzy Mekler was registered to vote. Regardless of her party affiliation and knowledge of the issues and candidates she should never have been allowed to vote. Ritzy’s ineligibility to vote had nothing to do with her residency or that she was a concerned Missourian – no, her problem was that she was a dog. If it wasn’t so true, it could be funny, but if Ritzy would have been required to produce photo identification, she would not have been allowed to vote.
Voter fraud like this diminishes the power of your vote and the votes of all registered voters in Missouri. For that reason, it is critical that we preserve the integrity of the voting process by ensuring it is safeguarded against attempts of fraud. Our system must be one that guarantees only those who are legally entitled to vote are able to participate in the process. Of course, that excludes dogs, even cats, as well as felons, non-residents, the deceased, and the countless other examples of attempts at defrauding the system.
One of the most important things we can do to protect the voting process is to require voters to identify themselves with photo identification. This simple requirement would help deter fraud and ensure that those voting are not doing so under a false pretense. The General Assembly approved this requirement in 2006 and it was signed into law by Governor Blunt. Unfortunately, the Missouri Supreme Court later tossed out that law ruling the law violated the state constitution by imposing too great of a burden on voters. Despite the fact such a requirement is not a burden, it is arguably the cheapest and most effective way to keep a corrupt few from stealing an election – the Missouri Supreme Court thought otherwise.
The good news is that a recent ruling by the United States Supreme Court has re-opened the door for a photo identification requirement by upholding a similar law in Indiana. While that decision doesn’t have a direct impact on Missouri, it does demonstrate that our attempt to provide for free and fair elections was appropriate and does not create an undue burden on registered voters.
The General Assembly is working to pass HJR48 to give voters the opportunity to amend our state constitution to require Missourians to present government-issued photo identification to election officials before voting. For those without any form of photo identification the legislation would require the state to provide these individuals with at least one form of identification at no cost. This proposed constitutional amendment would better protect the voting process from fraud while also ensuring that Missourians who want to vote are not prevented from doing so.
With just five legislative days remaining in this session timing is critical to secure passage in both chambers before time runs out. This legislation was passed by the Missouri House today (May 8, 2008) and is now in the hands of the State Senate. Asking a voter to provide a simple form of photo identification is not an unreasonable request and now we also know that it is not unconstitutional. Voting is one of the most fundamental rights we have as citizens of this republic and we must take this step to further protect that right so the importance of each vote is never diminished or negated.