Your Missouri Legislators: Putting Up Road Blocks to the Voting Booth
Posted on April 20, 2011 by Kelly Moffatt
The countless voters with disabilities who can testify to the rapid pace at which the vote is becoming more accessible for all citizens should be enough to inspire the Missouri legislature to continue down a path of balancing the need for elections security with fair and equal opportunity for all voters to cast a ballot on election day. Yet, our legislators are running in the opposite direction. The Senate has already passed SB 3and SJR2, and our Representatives have passed it out of committee for the House’s consideration. This bill would require all voters to present a government-issued photo ID in order to vote, although other forms of ID are already required to verify your identity.
Our community will inevitably feel the negative effects of photo identification requirements. Our over-representation among the poor and working classes and the nature of some disabilities that impact the ability to drive put us among those who are least likely to own motor vehicles and have need of a driver’s license – the most common form of photo ID. Couple that with a common lack of individual transportation, insufficient accessible public transportation, and fees and architectural barriers at many public offices that issue birth certificates and IDs, and people with disabilities will face consistent challenges in maintaining either a driver’s license or state non-driver ID.
The only exception for people with disabilities requires the casting of a provisional ballot, less than half of which are ever counted. In order to have this ballot tallied, the voter with a disability must provide a signature on election day that matches the signature provided at the time of voter registration. Yet, any number of disabilities can cause this signature to look completely unique at each signing, leaving qualified provisional ballots at risk of being tossed out.
We in the disability community believe in election reform as much as any of our fellow Missourians to eliminate voter fraud where it threatens election security. However, we must also stay vigilant in the wake of HAVA to ensure that we continue to remove barriers to voting and find an adequate and workable balance between security and access. Until photo IDs are proven to deter voter fraud at the polling place and accessible systems for providing no cost IDs are in place in Missouri, we simply cannot risk potentially disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of our own citizens with disabilities.