County clerks apathetic about new voter ID law

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Voter cards, driver's license bar codes offer superior check

Ramifications from the Missouri General Assembly's override of voter identification law will not create any immediate change in voting practices locally, according to Barry and Lawrence County clerks.

Lawrence County Clerk Gary Emerson said the voter ID override represented the nuts and bolts of what still goes before voters on Nov. 6 in the form of Amendment 6 to the Missouri Constitution. There will be no impact on the general election this year.

"If the amendment doesn't pass, I think the override is a moot point," Emerson said. "If it does pass, I'm sure some group is likely to challenge it it court. I think it will be a year or two before the matter is resolved. I'm not getting worked up about it."

Local clerks use their own system to check the identity of voters that they feel is superior to changes proposed by the legislature and do not plan to change. Both clerks issue voter ID cards that have a bar code on them that voting judges scan with their tablet sign-in equipment. Driver's licenses work the same way. Clerks said the bar codes will key identification, making the photo unnecessary. Driver's licenses may take longer for the computer to process, because of variations in names, such as "Bob" and "Robert."

Barry County Clerk Gary Youngblood said the voting cards will still work for women who have gotten married and changed their names. Other checks are closer to leaning on comparing handwriting, which is seldom beyond dispute.

While state law also allows a person to bring in a utility bill bearing the name of the voter, Youngblood said those may be stolen, as could the voting card. He directs his judges to take the documentation, then orally verify the information.

Youngblood said absentee ballot provisions already required voters to submit a photo identification, especially if they registered to vote by mail.

"If you register by mail, if you had no identification, it could be a phony," Youngblood said. "A lot of people register by mail. They get applications from websites and other sources. Then, they go to the polls, and they have to show us the ID. We just follow state law."

Youngblood did not see how the new state law would change his operations. He noted most people have driver's licenses or can get a photo ID from a license office. He disputed the contention that the law would create an undue burden on the poor and the elderly.

"People on welfare have to have a photo ID," Youngblood said. "Older people on Medicare have a photo ID as well. I think we ought to make sure the person voting really is the person they say they are."

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