Missouri’s legislative process will begin this week with pre-filing of bills for the 2016 session that will start in January.

Missouri’s legislative process will begin this week with pre-filing of bills for the 2016 session that will start in January.
Though numerous bills may be filed, typically only a few will make their way through the House and the Senate and to the governor’s desk. Several pieces of legislation will be considered as priority.
One such piece will focus on passing a voter’s photo identification law. Missouri law does not demand voters show a form of photo ID when casting their ballots at the polls, though the state requires voters to show some form of non-photo ID, such as a utility bill or a voter registration card.
Protecting the election process from potential fraud always has been a priority for Missouri lawmakers. Most believe that requiring a photo ID will benefit the integrity of that process.
Proper identification is required for much of what we do. For example, if one uses a banking or financial institution or goes to a hospital or a health-care provider, it is necessary to show a proper ID. Even when writing a check for groceries, one is required to have proof of identity.
Why should something as important as voting require any less? It only seems reasonable for voters to provide the same type of identification when casting their votes at the polls, verifying they are whom they claim to be.
Many are asking why the issue of providing a proper voter photo ID is such a political “hot potato” across our nation. Those against requiring stricter voting laws that include photo identification argue that the proposal is an attempt to disenfranchise voters who have a hard time securing documents needed to get a photo ID. Many times, the documents they need include a birth certificate, a passport or a valid, unexpired driver’s license.
Individuals who have difficulty providing proper identification oftentimes are the elderly, the disabled and some minority groups. Realizing that these are legitimate concerns and for any who cannot produce proper documentation, some states, like Missouri, have exemptions in place or are endeavoring to get them there to allow those persons to work around their obstacles.
Because our state’s Supreme Court has struck down previous voter photo ID laws, this issue must be taken to the voters to change the constitution to allow for a voter photo ID law. This can be accomplished in one of two ways: with a legislative referendum or a petition initiative.
There is a petition initiative being circulated to gather signatures, with the intent of it being placed as a constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot. If approved by voters, this will pave the way for the legislature to develop the framework of a voter photo ID law.
Some claim that voter photo ID is not needed or that the expense does not justify the end. Unfortunately, overall public confidence in government (especially at the federal level) is at a low point. Having a tool in effect, such as the voter photo ID law, can be one step in providing a greater sense of honesty in the voting process and helping to rebuild the citizenry’s faith in our voting system. As far as the amount of expense involved, it appears to be minimal.
The argument about showing a picture ID is not a new idea. In 2005, a 21-member, bi-partisan commission on federal election reform advocated the use of a voter photo ID. The commission was co-chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker.
The commission called voter identification one of the “five pillars” that would “build confidence” in the integrity of federal elections. Only three of the 21 commission members were opposed to photo identification.
The report went on to state that “the right to vote is a vital component of U.S. citizenship and all states should use their best effort to obtain proof of citizenship before registering voters.” The commission’s report also stated, “In close or disputed elections, and there are many, a small amount of fraud could make the margin of difference.”
Perhaps now is the time for Missouri to make changes to its voting system to help ensure that only votes from eligible individuals will be used to determine the outcome of our elections.

Bill Reiboldt represents the people of Southwest Missouri in the Missouri House of Representatives.