Voter ID and Proof of Citizenship
Missouri is trying to join Arizona in requiring people prove that they are U.S. citizens before allowing them to vote.
The battle over voting rights will expand this week as lawmakers in Missouri are expected to support a proposed constitutional amendment to enable election officials to require proof of citizenship from anyone registering to vote. The measure would allow far more rigorous demands than the voter ID requirement recently upheld by the Supreme Court, in which voters had to prove their identity with a government-issued card.
Sponsors of the amendment — which requires the approval of voters to go into effect, possibly in an August referendum — say it is part of an effort to prevent illegal immigrants from affecting the political process. Critics say the measure could lead to the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of legal residents who would find it difficult to prove their citizenship.
Voting experts say the Missouri amendment represents the next logical step for those who have supported stronger voter ID requirements and the next battleground in how elections are conducted. Similar measures requiring proof of citizenship are being considered in at least 19 state legislatures. Bills in Florida, Kansas, Oklahoma and South Carolina have strong support. But only in Missouri does the requirement have a chance of taking effect before the presidential election.
Theoretically, this seems reasonable enough. What’s the point of requiring advance voter registration if not to confirm that people are in fact eligible to cast a ballot?
Practically, however, this could be problematic. While a drivers’ license or other government issued photo ID ought to serve as proof of citizenship, it doesn’t. Not everyone has a passport, either. So would-be voters would have to produce a birth certificate or some comparable document, which will certainly discourage some people from voting.
This trade-off would be defensible if there were strong reason to believe that significant numbers of non-citizens were showing up to vote and skewing the election results. There isn’t. Certainly, illegal aliens have strong incentives to avoid official scrutiny. So, who are these people we’re trying to keep from voting?