The NCSL Blog


By Karen Shanton

According to a report by The Washington Post’s Reid Wilson, photo voter ID legislation introduced in the Missouri Senate seems likely to clear the state legislature this session. The Missouri General Assembly passed similar legislation in 2011, only to see it vetoed by Democratic Governor Jay Nixon. However, with their newly-veto-proof majority in the legislature, Republicans have the numbers to override potential vetoes of the new legislation.

If the legislation does make it through the General Assembly and past the governor’s desk, the question of whether to implement a photo ID requirement will next go to Missouri voters. The Missouri Supreme Court struck down a state voter ID law as unconstitutional under the state constitution in 2006. To sidestep state constitutional issues, the current proposal involves amending the state constitution to add a provision explicitly permitting photo ID requirements. In Missouri, this requires a majority of the legislature to okay sending the amendment to the ballot then a majority of voters to approve it.

Missouri’s Supreme Court is the only court of final jurisdiction to reject a voter ID law to date but a few other states have state constitutional challenges pending. Lower court rulings on the state constitutionality of ID laws are awaiting further review in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And complaints against ID laws have been lodged under the state constitution in Kansas and Texas.

The final outcomes of these cases are as yet uncertain. But if voter ID supporters in these states find themselves in the same position as Missouri’s ID backers, they’ll also need voter approval for an ID amendment. In Kansas and Texas, two-thirds of the legislature has to send an amendment to the ballot and a majority of voters has to approve it to make it official. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin require a majority of the legislature to okay the amendment twice, in two separate sessions, then a majority of voters to support it.

Just one state—Delaware—allows the legislature to amend the state constitution without a public referendum. The Delaware General Assembly can change the state constitution with a two-thirds vote in two consecutive sessions.

Karen Shanton is a legislative studies specialist and ACLS public fellow at NCSL

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.