Mo. Judge Allows Sponsor of Law into Voter ID Case

August 29, 2006

The legislator who handled the new law requiring voters to show a photo ID at the polls was allowed to step into the court battle Monday.

Missouri’s Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan permitted Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, to intervene in defending the law against various city officials and potential voters who are challenging its constitutionality.

But the judge again denied a request by the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners to get involved.

Another hearing in the case is set for Friday.

“The court recognized that there was substantial evidence that we could provide that the court was not getting,” said Thor Hearne, a St. Louis attorney who represents Scott and Dale Morris, whom he described as a poor, elderly, disabled St. Louis County voter who supports the law. Morris also was allowed to intervene in the lawsuit.

The law, which took effect Monday, requires voters to show a photo identification card issued by Missouri or the federal government starting with the November elections.

Those without a proper ID this fall can cast a provisional ballot, which will count if they sign an affidavit; present an ID acceptable under the old law or are known by two election judges; are in the right polling place; and their signatures match the ones on file with election authorities.

Supporters say the photo ID is needed to prevent fraud and give voters confidence in election results, but opponents say current requirements are sufficient and the new one is a burden to the poor, elderly and disabled.

Hearne said, among other things, he planned to share the experience of Indiana, where a voter ID law has so far been upheld in federal court and which completed a primary election in May with the photo ID requirement in effect.

“These horrors about photo ID just never materialize,” Hearne said.

U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker ruled in April that the Indiana law could stand because Democrats failed to show it was too burdensome.

After the primary, Indiana Democrats, who have appealed the judge’s decision, said they received hundreds of complaints about the new requirement and predicted even more problems in November, when turnout is generally higher and some races hotly contested.

But Indiana’s Republican Secretary of State Todd Rokita said his office received few calls about problems, which were all easily fixed.

Georgia has a similar photo ID requirement, which has been blocked so far by state and federal courts. U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy said requiring Georgia voters to show photo IDs was discriminatory toward people who don’t have driver’s licenses, passports or other government IDs.

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