Missouri Republicans hold a veto-proof supermajority in the state's General Assembly. That fact was never more apparent after comments made on the floor of the Missouri House by state Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia. Debate on a voter identification law was intense and Kelly spoke out against his political opponents in the chamber. After debate finished, the House gave initial approval to the controversial measure seen as disenfranchising poor citizens by Democrats and preventing voter fraud by Republicans.
* According to the Springfield News-Leader , Kelly said, "Jim Crow is alive...today. This [bill] is the single most immoral act that I've ever seen happen in my time in the General Assembly."
* Fellow Democratic state Rep. Genise Montecillo defended her colleague's statement. St. Louis Public Radio reports she said, "I don't envy you having to explain it to your Maker." Monticello was also referring to the new voter ID bill.
* House Joint Resolution 5 puts the question of voter identification laws to the voters themselves. If approved by the General Assembly, Missourians will have an opportunity to vote to amend the Missouri Constitution in order to clarify and codify the legislature's authority to pass a voter identification requirement for polling places. The idea of the amendment is to make any such voter ID law constitutionally valid and to minimize legal challenges in the Missouri Supreme Court.
* House Bill 48 makes the voter ID requirement authorized by the constitutional amendment, assuming the ballot question passes during an election. Costs associated with obtaining a Missouri photo identification are waived for the purposes of voting. Should a citizen be unable to produce the necessary documentation to obtain a photo ID, namely a birth certificate, the voter can sign affidavits for a provisional ballot until local election authorities can accurately determine the person's identity by comparing signatures on documents with the election authority.
* Two Democrats voted for House Joint Resolution 5, but they voted against House Bill 48. The ballot question will be posed to Missouri voters in 2014 if the measure passes both the House and Senate.
* In defending the legislation, state Rep. Noel Torpey, R-Independence, said "This is a simple [effort] to prevent voter fraud... if [voters] don't show identification, how do you prove [their identity]?" St. Louis Public Radio also quoted Torpey when he said he wasn't "going to hell" by voting in favor of the tougher ID requirement.
* The Kansas City Star notes critics of the new voter ID legislation believe there are no recent instances of voter impersonation at the polls to warrant such a measure. Democrats such as state Rep. Brandon Ellington of Kansas City claim hardships to get a photo ID amount to a poll tax, illegal since the 1960s.
* Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed similar voter ID legislation in the past. Even with a veto, Republicans have enough votes along party lines to override such a tactic later in the year.
* The Missouri Supreme Court struck down a tougher voter ID law in 2006 before it went into effect. Nixon vetoed a law in 2011 that wasn't overridden. Legislation failed to pass the General Assembly in 2012, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch .
* Jim Crow refers to the racial epithet for blacks during the height of slavery before the U.S. Civil War. The term also denotes segregationist laws passed to suppress freed slaves after Reconstruction in the South.
William Browning is a research librarian specializing in U.S. politics.
- Politics & Government
- Missouri House