Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Picture a scenario where political considerations do not distort debate on requiring voters to show photo identification.
That scenario does not now exist.
Lawmakers this session are embroiled — once again — in proposals to advance an amendment to change the state constitution and to enact a law requiring voters to produce government-approved photo identification.
Republicans argue a photo ID is necessary to prevent voter fraud. They offer little evidence, however, of fraud at the polls.
Democrats contend a voter ID requirement would encumber poor people, who largely vote in favor their political party.
A 2006 voter ID law was rejected by the Missouri Supreme Court as an unconstitutional infringement on the fundamental right to vote.
Proponents of voter ID hope to get around the pesky constitutional provision by amending the document.
Presumably, proponents will target the existing language that says a person who is registered is entitled to vote.
Regular readers of this forum know we are both weary and wary of constitutional amendments.
If a constitutional amendment requiring voter ID is approved and withstands inevitable court challenges, an outcome not widely discussed is the cost of creating and issuing photo IDs.
If government mandates the IDs, it is responsible for the cost. Passing any cost along to the voter is tantamount to a poll tax, prohibited by the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Amending the U.S. Constitution would prove decidedly more difficult.
We believe politics is the primary motivation for the photo ID maneuvering.
If the political parties insist on elbowing for advantage at polling places, we implore them to leave the constitution out of it.
The blueprint for governing has suffered enough from political shenanigans.
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