Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft held a public meeting Friday afternoon at Farmington's city hall to explain the state’s new voter photo identification requirement that went into effect June 1.
The stop was part of Ashcroft’s five-day tour around the state to explain and defend the new law that is now the subject of a civil right group filed suit filed Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union and Advancement Project, a Washington D.C.-based civil rights group, on behalf of the NAACP and the League of Women Voters.
The suit, filed in advance of a St. Louis special election set for July 11, claims the law is an attempt to disenfranchise voters.
Ashcroft stood before a small crowd of about 25 people who came out to hear details of the new law, and laughingly explained that he was an engineer prior to becoming a politician — a move he acknowledged many might consider a step down — but was the reason he still loved flowcharts.
“With the new law, that means in any Missouri election held after June 1, you will be asked to show a photo ID before you vote,” he said. “Before the law, voters would walk into their polling place and either show a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, non-driver’s license, passport or military ID.
“Voters who didn’t have one of those for some reason, could show their voter registration card or an ID from a university, college, vocational or technical school in the state of Missouri; a utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document showing your name and address.
“With the new law, you can still use those same forms of identification to vote. The law is adding what is called a provisional ballot. In the past, if you for some reason, don’t have your driver’s license or other form of ID with you, the poll worker could tell you, ‘Sorry. You’re a registered voter. You’re in the right place and at the right time, but because you don’t have your ID, your vote won’t count.’”
Ashcroft offered an example of a voting precinct in St. Louis where in the April election poll workers discovered soon after the doors opened that they didn’t have the right ballots and turned voters away, telling them to come back later in the day when the right ballots might be available.
“With a provisional ballot, this won’t happen anymore,” he said. “If you realize at the last minute while you’re in the swimming pool that you’ve forgotten to vote and you come to the polling place without your ID, you can sign for a provisional ballot.”
He explained that for the provisional ballot to count toward the election, either the voter’s signature will have to match the signature in the voter registry or the voter must come back to their polling place that day and show a photo ID.
Ashcroft explained that any person using a provisional ballot will be given a three-digit number that they can use to contact their county election official to verify that their vote was counted. He also noted that voters using a provisional ballot might have their photos taken by a poll worker to verify their identity if fraud is suspected.
When a person in the crowd questioned the purpose of the provisional ballot, Ashcroft said the same forms of ID that could be used before in a Missouri election will still be usable now. The provisional ballot simply offers another way to allow people to vote who in the past might have been turned away.
Ashcroft also explained that voters without a photo ID will be issued by the Secretary of State’s office — upon request — a non-driver’s license at no charge.
“We can help you obtain the documents you need at no cost to you,” he said. “You may need a copy of your certified birth certificate, certified marriage license, certified divorce decree, certified adoption papers or amended birth certificate, a court order that changed your name, a Social Security card that reflects your name or naturalization papers that prove citizenship.
“If you do not have a photo ID to vote, but already possess the necessary documents to obtain a non-driver’s license and want one to vote, visit your local license office and request a non-driver’s license for voting purposes.”
Another questioner said she had read in a newspaper that there were no more than about 50 fraudulent votes cast nationwide in the November presidential election. Ashcroft begged to differ.
“I’m aware of double-digit incidences of voter fraud just in Missouri,” he said.
The person said that double-digit incidences of fraud — which could total as many as 99 votes — would not change the outcome of either a state or federal election. Ashcroft agreed, but said he wanted to make sure all ballots cast in Missouri elections were made by registered voters and not by people attempting fraud.
The questioner then told Ashcroft that, according to what she had read, voter fraud was something that most usually occurred in absentee voting. Ashcroft agreed this was true — and admitted that the new voter ID law doesn’t cover absentee voting. It will remain exactly the same as before.
For more information about the new voter ID law, call the ShowIt2Vote Hotline at 866-868-3245 or email ShowIt2Vote@sos.mo.gov for help in obtaining a non-driver’s license for voting purposes. For Missouri birth certificates, marriage certificates and divorce degrees, email VitalRecordsInfo@health.mo.gov or call 573-751-6387.