Updated at 5:40 p.m. with details from the Thursday morning hearing.
JEFFERSON CITY • A Missouri House committee advanced proposals Thursday that would require voters show photo identification at the ballot box — something Democratic members of the committee denounced as a return to racist Jim Crow laws.
The House Select Committee on State and Local Governments advanced two measures on 7-3 party-line votes. One would put the question before voters this year in the form of a proposed constitutional amendment.
If passed, a bill sponsored by Rep. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, would dictate how the new rule would be enforced.
A photo voter ID requirement was signed into law in 2006 by then-Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican. The law was struck down by the state Supreme Court. Because the law was ruled unconstitutional, likely the only way to pass photo ID requirements in Missouri is to amend the constitution, said Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights.
"We spend a lot of time revering our constitution and yet this bill would require a change," Newman said at the hearing. "So it would have to go to a vote of the people."
Rep. Joe Adams, D-University City, said that parallels could be drawn between this proposal and attempts in the South to silence black voters in the 19th century.
"It reminds me of what happened in the mid-1800s — mid- to-late 1800s — when there were a group of people who went around and they said they quote 'redeemed the South,'" Adams said at the hearing. "And that they basically said too many people were voting."
The Democrats on the committee raised concerns about how some people without IDs would be able to cast a ballot. To get an ID, a birth certificate is required, which they said can be an arduous process with implicit costs such as taking time off of work.
Republicans argue that the bill is meant to protect against voter impersonation fraud — and that there were no ulterior motives.
"I, personally, am unsure about the integrity of some of our elections, based upon the fact that I can go into a polling location with a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement or paycheck and say that this is who I am," Alferman said at hearing Tuesday on his bill.
He added, "The opportunity to commit voter impersonation under current law is very real."
The proposals now head to the House floor.
The bill and accompanying resolution are House Bill 1631 and House Joint Resolution 53.