At Forum, Group Shares Concerns on Amendment 6

Oct 26, 2016

“220,000 Missourians, that is a significant amount of people who would lose their access to the polling place, lose their voice, and lose their voting to choose who writes their legislation for them,” said Alex Johnson, a Drury University senior.

The statement by Johnson summarized the focus of Tuesday evening’s forum, presented by the League of Women Voters of Southwest Missouri. The event was branded Photo ID for Voters, It’s Not So Simple, and held at Drury’s Findlay Student Center Ballroom.

Forum panelists, from L-R: Elizabeth Paddock, Alex Johnson, Cheryl Clay and Shelby Butler
Credit Han Zhao / KSMU

Three panelists, all opposed to the November ballot measure, shared their views on the matter. Johnson was joined by Cheryl Clay, NAACP Springfield branch president, and Shelby Butler, Southwest Center for Independent Living access coordinator.

“Our whole purpose of being here is to say ‘this creates a barrier’,” Butler said. “Anytime even just one person who doesn’t have access to equality like everyone else, we have to speak out.”

The bill would not allow a college ID, driver’s license from another state, an expired ID, voter registration card, utility bill, or other currently acceptable ID to verify a voter’s identity.

According to the League of Women Voters, more than 220,000 Missouri voters lack a state ID. Seniors, people with disabilities, students, and economically challenged population groups would be the most affected by such a change.

“This is rewriting Missouri’s Constitution,” Clay said. “It is not just an Amendment to our Constitution, it is, but it is to rewrite the Constitution that served us very well all these years now all the sudden it’s not good enough and we need to change it.”

Butler shared stories of individuals whom she works with on a daily basis. To her findings, many people simply give up their voting rights due to the complicated process to acquire a state photo ID.

“Our right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy,” Crystal Brigman Mahaney, League member and event moderator, said. “Amendment 6 seeks to cut people out of the voting process and the democratic process.”

Among the League’s mission is to encourage citizens to vote; however, members think Amendment 6 is turning voters away and silencing their voice.

“If you take away somebody’s faith in the system, in a society where our structures are built on the beliefs in them, and they are building to function for our benefit, when you deny an individual that, then you are weakening the system as a whole,” said Johnson.

Supporters of Amendment 6 cite voter fraud as a main concern. Elizabeth Paddock, a political science professor at Drury University, says in her research just 31 out of 1 billion voters were found to have committed voter impersonation in the past decade.

Still, the proposed constitutional amendment has many supporters, including Republicans in Missouri’s GOP-controlled legislature that voted to place the measure on the ballot. Republican lawmakers have been pushing the measure ever since the Missouri Supreme Court tossed out an earlier requirement passed in 2006.

The Missouri Secretary of State’s office serves as, among other things, the chief elections official for the state. The Republican nominee for the position, Jay Ashcroft, has been a strong proponent of the photo ID bill throughout his campaign. Last year, he filed an initiative petition to place voter ID on the ballot, which he says led the way for the issue’s passage this session by the General Assembly.

Ashcroft is at odds with his Democratic challenger Robin Smith and groups like the League over whether the measure will disenfranchise 220,000 Missourians. 

"It's provable that not a single individual that is legally allowed to vote now would not be allowed to vote after the implementation of that bill, regardless of whether or not they have a government-issued photo ID," Ashcroft told St. Louis Public Radio.

At Tuesday’s event in Springfield, Faith Voices of Southwest Missouri called on volunteers to join its Phone Bank: Vote No on Amendment 6 event on Thursday and next Tuesday at National Avenue Christian Church.

“This is a basic right, we need to protect it,” Drury’s Elizabeth Paddock said. “And we need to take care of each other because we are a community, and that community is founded on making decisions collectively, and this Amendment takes away that decision-making power.” 

The official ballot title for Amendment 6 reads as follows:

Shall the Constitution of Missouri be amended to state that voters may be required by law, which may be subject to exception, to verify one’s identity, citizenship, and residence by presenting identification that may include valid government-issued photo identification?

The proposed amendment will result in no costs or savings because any potential costs would be due to the enactment of a general law allowed by this proposal. If such a general law is enacted, the potential costs to state and local governments is unknown, but could exceed $2.1 million annually.

The Missouri Secretary of State’s Office, through its fair ballot language, continues that a yes” vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to state that voters may be required by law to verify their identity, citizenship, and residence by presenting identification that may include valid government-issued photo identification. Exceptions to this identification requirement may also be provided by law. A no” vote will not amend the Missouri Constitution regarding elections.