The Missouri Senate passed a wide-ranging elections bill Monday that would enact a photo ID requirement to vote as well as create a window to cast an absentee ballot without an excuse.
The bill will now go back to the House, which can send it to the governor or ask for a conference to work out differences.
After a nine-hour Democratic filibuster last week, Democrats agreed to let the bill come to a vote after adding an amendment to allow for in-person, no-excuse absentee voting during the two weeks before an election at the local election authority office. A move to allow for satellite in-person absentee voting was squashed.
The bill also includes several recommendations — such as prohibiting touchscreen voting machines and requiring a number of cybersecurity checks — that came out of hearings last summer, where legislators heard a parade of debunked conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.
“It is in all of our interest to have an election that is as free and fair as possible,” said Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis. “And voting on Election Day with a voter ID, free of outside influence and outside money is really the right move for an election integrity.”
Democrats and voting-rights advocates say the photo ID requirement will negatively impact minorities, seniors, voters with disabilities and many others who struggle with the transportation and funds needed to get an identification card.
Under the bill, sponsored by state Rep. John Simmons, R-Washington, registered voters would either have to get a government-issued photo ID or else only be allowed to cast a provisional ballot on Election Day.
The provisional ballot would be counted only if the voter returns later that day with a photo ID or if election officials can verify their signature based on voter records.
Republicans have been trying to enact a photo ID requirement to vote in Missouri for the last 15 years. Legislation has passed several times, but it’s never been able to fully withstand legal challenges.
Simmons’ seven-page bill grew to more than 80 pages when it was combined with an election bill sponsored by Sen. Sandy Crawford, R-Buffalo, in a Senate committee. Crawford’s bill included a number of cybersecurity and auditing measures.
During the Senate debate on Tuesday, conservative caucus members successfully offered amendments that would require all election authorities or political subdivisions to have cybersecurity reviews. The secretary of state would be authorized to withhold funds from that election authority if they failed to do so, unless that funding is a federal mandate or part of a federal and state agreement.
“Everyone should have heightened awareness of cybersecurity,” said Sen. Eric Burlison, R-Battlefield. “The ability for hackers to do remarkable things…it’s astounding what can be done.”
Funds could also be withheld if the secretary of state finds a local election authority has not properly maintained their voter registration lists or accepts private donations.
Democrats argued against the proposal for several hours, saying that the “far right” wants to give unprecedented power to the secretary of state.
“In the environment that we’re in right now, with unfounded questions surrounding the last …….