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Missouri Senate on track to pass voter photo ID requirement

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Missouri senators took another step toward requiring photo identification at the polls as the deadline for lawmakers to pass legislation approaches.

Senators compromised on the measure late Tuesday night, adding a Democratic-sponsored amendment to allow no-excuse absentee voting up to two weeks prior to the date of an election.

Currently, voters need to cite an excuse for why they won’t be able to vote in person on Election Day. Eligible excuses include plans to be out of town on Election Day and illness.

Democratic Sen. John Rizzo said under Missouri’s current policy, some voters provide a “phony excuse” about out-of-town plans, for example, in order to cast ballots early.

“We don’t need people to have to lie to cast a ballot early,” Rizzo said. “In today’s world where people are busy and they are running around, they should be able to go vote at a convenient time to them to exercise their constitutional right to vote.”

The measure needs another vote of approval in the Senate before it can go back to the House, where negotiators will review Senate changes.

Lawmakers face a May 13 deadline to send bills to Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s desk.

The primary bill is the latest in a longstanding effort by Missouri’s GOP-led Legislature to require voters to show photo IDs at the polls.

Missouri voters in 2016 amended the Constitution to allow lawmakers to require photo identification to vote. But the Missouri Supreme Court in 2020 permanently blocked a central provision of the 2016 law that required voters who lacked a photo ID to make a sworn statement in order to cast a regular, non-provisional ballot.

In response, Republicans have been trying to pass a new voter ID bill that is similar to the 2016 law but doesn’t include the sworn statement provision that the judges found objectionable.

The latest iteration would allow voters who don’t bring valid identification to cast provisional ballots, which wouldn’t be counted unless those voters return the same day with proper IDs or election authorities verify their signatures.

Valid forms of photo ID under the bill include nonexpired driver’s licenses, nondriver’s licenses, and other government-issued photo IDs.

Republican supporters say photo identification makes voting more secure and would instill trust in elections. Democrats argue photo IDs only prevent voter impersonation, which they say is not an issue.

The legislation also would ban private donations to fund elections, with the exception of some in-kind donations such as water or face masks for election workers.

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