A GOP-pushed effort, aided by Republican voter-fraud scam artist Thor Hearne, to pass the country's most draconian photo ID bill has been stopped today in the Missouri Senate. Republicans, despite proclaiming the menace of voter fraud, didn't have enough votes to bring it to the floor for a vote. An angry outpouring from senior citizens, nuns, the disabled and others who would be blocked from voting under the proposed constitutional amendment, led by a broad-based progressive coalition that included the AARP, swamped Republican legislators with over 4,000 phone calls and an outcry from local newspapers.
Julie Terbrock, the legislative director for Missouri ACORN and a member of the Missourians for Fair Elections coalition, points out, "The legislators felt the heat from average people in their district, including senior citizens, and it became too much for them to take."
The defeat of the measure, which would have blocked at least 240,000 Missourians from voting, also enhances Obama's chances at winning the state -- and the presidency -- because he'll have an opportunity to compete in could be a fair election.
But the real winner today is voting rights. As Missourians for Fair Elections Reported:
JEFFERSON CITY, MO - In a victory for all voters, Missouri lawmakers ended this year's legislative
session without a final vote on legislation that could have prevented up to 240,000 Missourians from
voting. The proposed change would have altered Missouri's constitution, allowing for strict citizenship
and government-issued photo ID requirements that would make Missouri one of the toughest states in the country for eligible, law-abiding citizens to register to vote or cast a ballot.
"I am relieved that I will be able to vote this fall," said Lillie Lewis, a St. Louis city resident, "I've been
voting in every election since I can remember, but if I needed my birth certificate, that would be the end
of that. I hope this is the last we hear of this nonsense." Lillie Lewis was born in Mississippi, but the
state sent her a letter stating they have no record of her birth.
Birdell Owen, a Missouri resident who was displaced by hurricane Katrina, also voiced her relief. "I
should be able to participate in my democracy," she said, "even if Louisiana can't get me a copy of my
birth certificate. I'm glad Missouri politicians had the sense to protect my right to vote."
As the bill began to move, a broad coalition of groups and voters across the state worked to educate
citizens and legislators about the negative impact of such policy changes on real voters. Missourians for Fair Elections reports over 4,200 calls were made to lawmakers in the past two weeks urging them to not consider this legislation. Catholic organizations, such as the Franciscan Sisters of Saint Mary, and the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas issued statements voicing deep concerns with the legislation. The AARP, League of Women Voters, labor organizations, disability advocates, community
organizations and progressive leaders worked around the clock for the past two weeks to make sure the concerns of Missouri voters were heard.
In 2006, despite serious opposition from voting rights experts, election officials and voters, the Missouri legislature passed an overly-restrictive photo ID measure that was later found unconstitutional by the Missouri Supreme Court because it amounted to a poll tax and Missouri's current identification requirements are sufficient. This year's proposed legislation would have altered the constitution in an attempt to allow restrictive voting laws to pass constitutional muster. Such restrictive laws include government-issued photo ID and proof of citizenship requirements to register to vote and to vote.
Kathleen Weinschenk, of Columbia, Missouri, has been fighting to protect her right to vote, and that of
others, since 2006. She has cerebral palsy, and doesn't drive because of her disability. Without a birth
certificate from Arkansas, she cannot get a Missouri photo ID. Kathleen is elated that the constitution
will not be changed to prohibit her from voting. "Today, freedom rings," she said.
Progressives everywhere should take heart from this victory, learn from its success, but realize that at least 25 other states have similar bills pending that would either require strict photo ID or proof of citizenship to vote.
And in Arizona, senior citizens like Shirley Preiss, a 97-year-old Kentucky-born woman, still isn't allowed to vote because she can' t produce a birth certificate. You can hear her and her 78-year-old son Joe Nemnich tell their story at the D'Antoni and Levine show with co-host Tom D'Antoni.