Today, the City of St. Louis is joining counties across the state to file a lawsuit to overturn a newly enacted law that will require Missouri voters to present certain picture ID’s before they can cast a ballot.
We did not enter into this decision lightly. But it is consistent with what we have done over the last five years to ensure that everyone in the City of St. Louis who is eligible to vote is allowed to cast a ballot that counts. The right of eligible citizen to vote - regardless of politics, race, religion, sexual orientation, age, or income - is one of the fundamentals of our system of governance.
In November 2000, the election process in the City of St. Louis was such a mess that many voters could not cast a ballot. Others had to go to court before they were allowed to vote for their candidate for president. To his credit, even though the City is predominantly Democratic, President George Bush’s administration threatened to sue St. Louis if we did not improve the voting process.
I took office right after the 2000 fiasco. Since then, my administration has worked in a bipartisan way with the Bush administration, the Election Board, and with two governors (including the current one) to reduce the hassles of voting so City voters don’t have to wait in long lines or be shuffled around. The process has improved.
But, this new voter ID requirement is a step backwards. The photo ID requirement is a high - and unnecessary - hurdle for some poor and elderly City voters. And it will reduce their participation in the electoral process.
Many elderly residents in my own ward, for example, have voted in the same precinct or polling place for decades. The election judges know them by name. But, many of them don’t drive anymore. So, they don’t have driver’s licenses. You can imagine their shock and anger if they were to be turned away from their polling place.
Make no mistake, there has been voter fraud in the City of St. Louis in the past. But, my office, the Election Board, the Circuit Attorney, and the U.S. Attorney’s office have dealt with fraud forcefully. And we will continue to do so.
I know some people will disagree with my decision to join the lawsuit. But, I believe very strongly that the foundation of our democratic institutions is the right of everyone to participate. If we have learned anything from our City’s past failures in this regard, we should be working to make it easier, not harder, to cast a ballot.