Sen. Jay Wasson’s Legislative Column for the Week of Jan. 18, 2016

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The Senate Financial and Governmental Organizations and Elections Committee, of which I’m chairman, hit the ground running this week. On Tuesday, we heard testimony on Senate Bill 594, which aims to establish voting identification requirements, with certain limited exceptions.

The Missouri General Assembly has been debating the voter ID issue for nearly a decade. In 2006, it passed a measure requiring voters to present a government-issued photo ID in order to cast their ballot, only to have the Supreme Court declare it unconstitutional the following year. Despite the court’s ruling, voter ID has remained an important issue to many Missouri lawmakers and constituents, and legislation calling for its passage continues to be filed and debated.

Over the years I’ve heard from constituents on both sides of the issue. Those opposed to voter ID laws largely believe that such requirements only further serve to disenfranchise voters from showing up on election day. On the other hand, I’ve heard from plenty of citizens who believe the rise in voter ID fraud has compromised the integrity of the election process. They feel as though their votes have been cheapened, and they question whether it’s even worth voting.

The debate on voter ID requirements is ongoing and may continue to be for the foreseeable future. What I would challenge you to consider is this: it’s unfortunately very true to say that voter turnout is already low and we don’t have voter ID requirements. Would it really be such a terrible thing if we took that extra step in protecting our election process — the cornerstone of our democracy — from fraud and those who seek to undermine it?

In other ID-related news, my Senate office has received a number of calls and emails from constituents with questions about the REAL ID Act, what it is and how it affects them.

Congress passed the REAL ID Act of 2005 in response to the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the federal government set minimum standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards. Citing privacy concerns, many states, including Missouri, chose not to comply with the law. In 2009, the state Legislature passed a measure that banned the Missouri Department of Revenue from complying with the REAL ID Act.

To help clear up some of the confusion, here is a breakdown of where we are today:

  • As of Jan. 10, 2016, our state-issued licenses are no longer considered a valid form of ID for accessing some military bases and federal facilities; however, you may still access federal courthouses in Missouri with your current Missouri license.
  • You may still use your Missouri license at Fort Leonard Wood, as long as you have a second form of ID, such as a U.S. Passport, Social Security Card, certified copy of a birth certificate, etc. For more information on Fort Leonard Wood’s policy, please click here.
  • Whiteman Air Force Base does not use any state ID as the “sole source” of identity verification and already conducts background checks on everyone, so there are no issues with Missouri’s noncompliance.
  • Finally, you will be able to continue using your Missouri license to board domestic flights until Jan. 22, 2018.

Protecting the privacy rights of Missouri citizens continues to be a top priority for me and many of my fellow lawmakers, but it appears the heavy hand of the federal government is once again going to force the issue. Several measures have been introduced this session to address REAL ID in Missouri, including Senate Bill 902. If passed, it would allow the Department of Revenue to issue REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and ID cards, and give Missourians the option of choosing if they want a REAL ID-compliant license.

If you have any questions or comments about this or any other matter regarding your state government, please feel free to contact me at (573) 751-1503; you are also welcome to e-mail me at

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