Missouri Gov. Parson signs sweeping new law requiring voters to show photo ID at polls

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Despite pushback from voting rights advocates, Missouri voters will be required to show a photo ID at the ballot box under a new law signed by Republican Gov. Mike Parson on Wednesday.

The sweeping new law, sponsored by Rep. John Simmons, a Washington Republican, prohibits touchscreen voting machines after 2024 and allows the Missouri secretary of state to audit voter rolls. It also gets rid of presidential primaries in Missouri — replacing them with a series of caucuses — and gives voters a two-week period to cast absentee ballots without an excuse.

“In 2020 and years prior, Missouri has conducted free, fair, and secure elections, but with changing technologies and new emerging threats, we want to ensure they remain that way,” Parson said.

The legislation from the state’s GOP-controlled legislature comes after nearly two years of false claims from former President Donald Trump and his supporters about widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. It will go into effect on August 28 and will apply to the upcoming November election.

The new law comes amid a sustained push from Missouri Republicans to enact some form of voter ID requirement. The Supreme Court of Missouri struck down a previous voter ID law in 2020 that would have required people who voted without a photo ID to sign a sworn statement stating they don’t have “a form of personal identification approved for voting.”

Judge Mary Russell, in the court’s affirmative opinion, called the sworn statement “contradictory” and “misleading.” She wrote that the affidavit requirement was not a reasonable way to combat voter fraud. The new law requires people who vote without a voter ID to fill out a provisional ballot instead of having to fill out an affidavit.

Democrats and voting rights advocates have decried the legislation as an attempt to stifle voting rights. They argued the voter ID requirements would hurt minorities and seniors who don’t have forms of photo identification.

“People have fought and died for this right to vote,” Rep. Joe Adams, a University City Democrat, said last month. “This bill is an attempt to restrict their participation in the process.”

A group of more than 2,100 voting rights advocates on Tuesday urged Parson to veto the bill, arguing it would create unnecessary hurdles for Missourians and undermine the state’s elections.

The law “attacks Missourians’ right to vote across the board,” Denise Lieberman, the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition’s director and general counsel, said in a statement.

“...What began as a 7-page Photo ID bill became a more than 80-page Model Voter Sabotage Bill - incorporating some the most restrictive provisions seen in states around the country that disparately impact voters of color.”

Lieberman said the law was “breathtaking in the ways it undermines our elections.”

While Republicans celebrated the legislation as a win, Democrats were able to tack on a provision from Sen. John Rizzo, a Kansas City Democrat, that allows Missouri voters to vote at local election authority offices without an excuse in the two weeks prior to an election.

Prior to the new law, Missourians could only vote absentee prior to an election if they had a religious exemption, were out of town, confined due to an illness or physical disability or working as an election official on election day.