JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Starting in November, voters will need a photo ID to cast a ballot in Missouri.
Gov. Mike Parson signed the large election package into law Wednesday. At present, all Missouri voters need to cast a ballot is either a voter ID card, a current utility bill, a paycheck or bank statement with your name and current address, a student ID, a driver’s license, or an ID issued by the U.S. or state.
Under House Bill 1878 approved by the General Assembly in May, some of those forms of ID won’t work at a polling place. It’s a goal Republicans have been trying to accomplish for years.
“It’s probably one of the most important pieces of legislation we’ve done in a long time,” said Parson before signing the bill Wednesday.
A big win for the GOP. The governor signed off Wednesday on House Bill 1878, which includes requiring photo ID to vote. This means that only a driver’s license or a U.S. or state-issued ID with the voter’s photo and address, along with an expiration date, is allowed.
Back in 2020, the Missouri Supreme Court blocked the secretary of state’s office from requiring photo identification to vote.
“What it does is what every election should do,” said Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft in an interview after the bill signing. “It makes sure it’s easier to vote, harder to cheat and people can have trust in the results afterward.”
Ashcroft said he’s confident if the state faces a lawsuit regarding the new law, the courts will side with the state this time.
“I’m kind of used to being sued on different things, unfortunately when you’re doing what’s right when you’re standing up for what you should be doing, people are going to sue you because they don’t like that,” Ashcroft said.
The bill was debated in the Senate for nine hours, before Democrats were able to add their provision, allowing two weeks of no-excuse absentee voting, into the bill.
“It was part of a compromise,” Ashcroft said. “I’m a big supporter of people going in person on election day to vote.”
The amendment, which was added by Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, in the upper chamber, would allow voters to vote at designation sites for a two-week period before the election without needing a reason why they can’t vote on Election Day.
His provision is tied to the photo ID measure, which means if the courts once again block the photo ID requirement, the no-excuse absentee part would also be canceled. The minority party in the House was frustrated with their colleagues in the Senate for sitting down after nine hours of filibuster and debate.
“That’s probably the biggest disappointment of this legislative session was that bill passing the finish line,” said House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, on the final day of the session in May.
Under current state law, Missourians can vote absentee before an election if they will be out of town, working the polls, have an illness, are incarcerated, or have a physical disability.
“The Secretary of State’s office is empowered by this law to get free IDs for people that for whatever reason they don’t have one,” said Ashcroft.
The law allows people without a government-issued ID to cast a provisional ballot that will be counted if they return to the polling place later that day to show a photo ID or their signature can be verified by election officials.
The secretary of state’s office can help Missourians receive a free photo ID by helping obtain the correct documents needed. The Department of Revenue provides one free non-driver license to Missourians at no charge. Click here for more information from the secretary of state’s website.
The legislation also prohibits touchscreen voting machines and requires groups registering voters to check in with the secretary of state’s office.
The legislation signed into law Wednesday will not affect the August 2nd primary since it won’t go into effect until the end of August. Come November, voters will be required to show their photo ID to cast a ballot.
Another part of the bill that would go into effect in January 2023, would allow Missourians registering to vote to choose a party affiliation. If the voter does not select a party, he or she can be designated as “unaffiliated.” Under current law, voters do not have to choose the ballot of a political party on primary day. Voters would be able to change their party affiliation by notifying their local election authority.
Parson signed a handful of other bills into law Wednesday including legislation requiring the state to fund charter schools. There are roughly 20 charter schools in Kansas City and 17 in St. Louis with more than 27,000 students enrolled combined.
Charters are independent public schools that don’t have to follow state regulations. The bill allocates $60 million to charter schools and only applies to areas where charter schools are permitted under state law.
Under the law, there are new rules for charter schools that require board members to be Missouri residents, the management companies be nonprofits, and test scores to be posted on the school’s websites. The legislation also has a provision in it preventing school districts from being the gatekeeper for virtual schools.
Back in 2018, the General Assembly expanded access to online learning for kindergarten through 12th grade. The program is called Missouri Course Access and Virtual School Program, or MOCAP. The new law aims to ensure parents have more say over their child switching to online courses, instead of leaving it up to the local district.
Some parents that have previously testified at the Capitol say they would never hear back from administrators if their child could move to virtual school.
Another law signed Wednesday would criminalize homelessness by prohibiting people to sleep on state-owned land. The attorney general also has the power to sue local governments that don’t enforce the ban. Sen. Holly Thomspon Rehder, R-Sikeston, who helped sponsor the provisions says 75% of Missouri’s homeless have mental health issues, another 75% have addiction issues and many have both.
“It really focuses on moving from just focusing on a housing model to focusing on the root problem which is the mental health crisis,” Thompson Rehder said.
The measure, sponsored by Rep. Bruce DeGroot, R-Ellisville, over in the House and would use existing funds to build shelters where someone who is homeless could stay for up to six months. The facilities would be monitored by police and social workers and tenants would have to meet certain requirements.
One final piece of legislation signed by Parson eliminates vacant properties throughout the state. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Michael O’Donnell, R-St. Louis and would change the way that buildings with unpaid taxes are sold.
“We’ve got huge tracks of land in the City of St. Louis that are undeveloped,” O’Donnell said. “The law we put into place today will give the City of St. Louis the tools it needs to get a clean title for those properties and redevelop them.”
O’Donnell said there are roughly 25,000 vacant buildings in St. Louis City.
Rep. Donna Baringer, D-St. Louis, co-sponsored the legislation.
“This is also about public safety because the building we are talking about are derelict and we’ve had firefighters get injured and killed going into these buildings so this is about public safety,” said Baringer.
“The law will help streamline the process for getting vacant property owners to return their properties to a usable condition and pay their taxes. It also allows the collector to have more resources when it comes to notifying owners that they are at risk of losing the property because of unpaid taxes.”