How many voters lack ID needed under new law? Missouri doesn’t know

Missouri’s new voter ID law went into effect Thursday. The state’s top elections official says he doesn’t know how many people don’t have acceptable ID, and won’t until there’s a major election.

The admission by Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft may raise questions about the state’s ability to ensure that voters without ID get them, and to otherwise implement the law smoothly.

Ashcroft, a Republican, told St. Louis Public Radio that he rejected the findings of a 2014 report put out by his predecessor, Democrat Jason Kander, which found that 220,000 Missourians lacked the photo ID they’d need.

Ashcroft said that number didn’t take into account cleaned-up voter rolls or other forms of acceptable ID. But he acknowledged he didn’t know the correct figure.

The radio station reported:

“[Ashcroft] estimated that it’s more likely between 100,000 and 130,000 people would lack the proper documents to vote, but he didn’t have an exact number, saying the statement people have to sign if they show up with an approved document but not a photo ID will help determine a better figure.”

Under the law, Missourians without acceptable photo ID can still vote as long as they sign an affidavit on penalty of perjury, and present one of several forms of non-photo ID, like a bank statement or utility bill. As we reported, Texas recently passed legislation that modifies its voter ID law in a similar way.

The number of people who lack photo ID matters, because states need to allocate money to get IDs to voters who need them, and to educate the public about the law.

Ashcroft’s office has said that $1.6 million has been allocated in the budget to publicize the law and to help people get free IDs, including helping them get the underlying documents they’d need. Democrats say the funding isn’t nearly enough.

An inquiry from The Daily Democracy to Ashcroft’s office about how the state was making decisions about funding without knowing how many people lack ID was not immediately returned.

An earlier photo ID law passed by Missouri was struck down by the state Supreme Court in 2006, which ruled that it violated the state Constitution. Last year, the GOP legislature passed a new law, and Missouri voters in November approved a constitutional amendment to allow voter ID.


Photo: Missouri Sec. of State Jay Ashcroft

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