Missouri lawmakers override governor's veto of voter ID bill

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Reuters) - Missouri lawmakers on Wednesday overrode Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill requiring voters to show government-issued photo identification in order to cast a ballot in the state starting in 2017, after this year’s presidential election.

The Missouri Senate voted 24-7 for the override on the heels of a 115-41 House vote earlier in the day. A two-thirds majority was required in both chambers for the override.

The bill would take effect in 2017 if voters in November pass a state constitutional amendment in support of the law. That is necessary because the Missouri Supreme Court ruled 10 years ago that such a law violated the existing state constitution.

A spokesman for Nixon, who vetoed the bill in July, did not immediately return a call seeking comment after the vote, but the governor previously decried the law as disenfranchising voters.

Courts in recent months have blocked voter ID laws passed in several states with Republican-led legislatures after civil rights groups argued the measures were discriminatory against poor and minority voters.

Under the Missouri bill, voters will need to produce a driver’s license or other government identification with a photo at the polls in order to vote. Residents without such an ID can now show another current identifying document, such as a utility bill or check, to vote.

Voters without a photo ID can still vote if they sign an affidavit swearing to not having that type of identification. However, election officials can take their picture and steps must be taken to get a photo ID for later use, with the state covering the cost.

Supporters of the bill said it brings integrity to the voting process and will help prevent fraudulent votes.

“Why not have more certainty in the election process?” Republican Rep. Justin Alferman, the bill’s main sponsor, said in a statement before the vote.

Opponents of the bill, however, have said the law disenfranchises young, minority and low-income voters who may not have government-issued IDs. Those voters are often Democrats, according to opponents.

“Putting additional and unwanted barriers between citizens and their ability to vote is wrong and detrimental to our system of government as a whole,” Nixon said in his letter explaining the veto.