This Week’s Legislative Column from Senator Mike Cunningham

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Protecting Missouri Voters’ Rights

As we move into the last week of the Second Regular Session of the 98th General Assembly, the Senate is hard at work, passing as much meaningful legislation as possible before adjournment. This week, my fellow senators and I advanced a measure that would work to safeguard the integrity of our state’s elections. The democratic process is the foundation upon which our great country is built, and it needs to be protected from fraudulent threats.

House Bill 1631 would modify certain voting identification requirements to make the election process safer from in-person voter fraud. The bill would require voters to present a valid photo ID, or another acceptable form of ID as outlined in the bill language, before they are able to cast a ballot.

The legislation requires voters to provide a valid photo ID – like a non-expired Missouri driver’s/non-driver’s license, a passport or a military license – before being certified to vote. If an individual does not have a valid photo ID, that person can still vote by signing a statement swearing that they are the person they claim to be, under penalty of perjury. If no statement is signed, the voter can still vote provisionally. Voters without a valid photo ID can obtain one paid for by the state.

This bill will not put unnecessary strain on Missouri voters. What it will do is ensure our election process is as fraud-free as possible, and that the true voice of the people will be represented through a system where honesty is a protected right. Facts show voter ID laws are intended to protect voters from dishonest tactics used by people looking for an advantage at the expense of a fundamental right. In April 2015, more than two dozen votes were cast in Kinloch, Mo. by voters who registered at vacant addresses. The mayor-elect was later barred from being sworn-in as a result of the alleged fraud. The Kansas secretary of state is prosecuting three cases of double-voting, and two of those cases are in Johnson County. After the August 2010 Kansas City Democratic Primary, two relatives of winning representatives pleaded guilty to fraud. The representative won the election by a single vote.

This legislation will protect against instances like these. If HB 1631 is passed in the House, it will only go into effect if Missouri voters approve an amendment to the State Constitution – House Joint Resolution 53. The amendment would add a provision authorizing the Legislature to implement voter ID requirements, and the Senate gave initial approval to the resolution this week.

We have only one week left this Session, and your state lawmakers will be hard at work until adjournment on May 13. This means we have a short amount of time left to get the final version of HJR 53 approved by the Legislature before it goes on a ballot to be decided by the qualified voters of this state. House Bill 1631 is now on the governor’s desk, awaiting his signature.

As always, I appreciate it when groups from around Missouri and from our community back home come to visit me at the Capitol. If you would like to arrange a time to come and visit me in Jefferson City, or if you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact my Capitol office at (573) 751-1882.