JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Republican candidate for Missouri secretary of state on Thursday filed an initiative petition that would allow the Legislature to require voters to present photo identification at the polls.
St. Louis attorney Jay Ashcroft filed the proposed constitutional amendment with the secretary of state’s office to permit a photo ID requirement. Republican supporters, including Ashcroft’s opponent in the GOP primary Sen. Will Kraus, have pushed to amend the state’s constitution since the Missouri Supreme Court declared photo ID requirements unconstitutional in 2006.
Supporters of requiring photo ID at the polls say it would prevent in-person voter fraud and protect the integrity of elections. But Democratic opponents say the measure would make it harder for minorities, women and the poor to vote.
Ashcroft said he supported making it easy for people to get any ID that would be required and said the constitutional amendment would simply allow lawmakers in the future to enact requirements if they chose to do so.
“The core idea of it is we’re just making sure people are who they say they are,” Ashcroft said. “If we allow people to fraudulently vote then we disenfranchise others.”
Ashcroft is the son of former governor, U.S. Senator and Attorney General John Ashcroft. Jay Ashcroft’s previous foray into Missouri politics was unsuccessful. He was defeated by Democratic state Sen. Jill Schupp of Creve Coeur, a former representative, for the state Senate seat, a victory for Democrats in a year dominated by GOP wins in Missouri.
Aschroft entered the race for after current Secretary of State Jason Kander, a Democrat, announced a bid for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Roy Blunt. Kraus, of Lee’s Summit, has introduced measures in the Legislature to place voter ID on the ballot in the Legislature.
“This is an important part of protecting our ballot box in the state,” Kraus said. “I support any effort to make voter ID become law in Missouri and I am encouraged to see more and more individuals and organizations join this cause every day.”
Kander opposes voter photo ID requirements. A report he released in 2014 estimated that a House measure to enact photo ID requirements could disenfranchise more than 200,000 eligible voters.
The Republican-controlled Legislature succeeded in passing both an enacting bill and constitutional amendment for photo ID requirements in 2011 but Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the bill and a Cole County judge struck down the ballot question wording lawmakers had drafted. Since then, versions of photo ID have passed the House but stalled in the Senate.
This year’s bill would have required a non-expired photo identification issued by Missouri or the federal government. College IDs or expired documents would not be accepted, placing Missouri alongside Indiana and Texas as one of the most restrictive states for photo ID.
The bill would have required the state pay for a photo ID and for a birth certificate needed to obtain the identification for registered voters lacking another form of photo ID. If money was not allocated for those provisions, the law would not have taken effect.
Initiative petitions need to be approved by Kander’s office before they can be circulated and must garner roughly 160,000 signatures - or 8 percent of registered voters in six of the state’s eight congressional districts - to appear on the ballot.
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