Revenue Department says fewer than 138,000 voters lack proper identification

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The Department of Revenue released a revised, and lower, estimate Monday of voters who may lack proper identification to cast a ballot starting in November, while Secretary of State Robin Carnahan said the agency isn't doing enough to reach those who need one.

In mid-August, the secretary of state's office released its estimate, saying more than 240,000 registered voters could lack an acceptable identification card under a new law. The Revenue Department said Monday the figure is really less than 138,000.

To come up with its figure, the secretary of state's office compared its voter registration lists with Revenue Department data of those with a driver's license or state identification card. However, the secretary of state's office acknowledged its list of voters lacking proper ID could have errors and include some who already have a license.

The Revenue Department said Monday that it compared the secretary of state's list with its files and determined more than 104,000 people could be removed.

Revenue Department spokeswoman Maura Browning said the agency hoped the secretary of state's office would use the revised list when it sends mailers about the new voter ID law.

"We are concerned that sending letters to people that do have a state ID will cause a great deal of confusion," she said.

The department, under Republican Gov. Matt Blunt, also said it has issued 1,836 ID cards through license offices and 29 mobile visits and has at least 60 more visits scheduled.

Carnahan, a Democrat, said that even using the Revenue Department's figure, that amounts to only 1 percent of voters who may need an ID, with less than two months until Election Day.

"The Department of Revenue has issued photo IDs to only 1 percent or less of the total number of law-abiding, registered voters who will need them to vote. This is unacceptable," Carnahan said in a written statement.

Her office plans to send a mailer to about 200,000 homes next week informing them of the ID requirement, based on its information, not the Revenue Department's revisions. Spokeswoman Stacie Temple said the mailer is not intended just to inform those who need an ID but to let those who have one know they must bring it to the polls this fall.

The voter identification law has been challenged in state and federal court as unconstitutionally infringing on the fundamental right to vote. A ruling from the Cole County Circuit Court is expected this week.

Supporters of the law hired two University of Missouri-Columbia professors to study the law's effects.

Political science professor Marvin Overby and economics associate professor Jeffrey Milyo found of those people who lack a photo ID, only about 8,000 would want to vote. They took into account voter turnout rates and those who cannot vote, such as immigrants, some felons and some with mental disabilities, along with some who could choose to cast a provisional ballot, such as the elderly or disabled.

The secretary of state's list clearly included some who don't need to obtain a new ID. Among them was a woman who said she has a current driver's license and has for years.

Charissa Lohmann, of Memphis, Mo., was listed at her parents' address as lacking an ID, but she said she hasn't lived at that address in decades and would have no problem meeting the photo ID requirement.

Still, she questioned the need for the law, at least in her area.

"I didn't realize that voter fraud was such a huge problem," she said. "I think it's a fine idea. I'm not sure how necessary it is. In this area, when I show up at the voters' bureau people know me by face and name. In large areas it would probably be a much bigger issue."

Revenue officials said more than 45,000 people on the list from Carnhan's office had moved out of state and surrendered their license to their new home, while an additional 45,000 had a license but had changed their names, such as through marriage or divorce, and a few thousand had died.

Also, of those still possibly lacking an ID were more than 25,000 who had an expired license. The law requiring people to show a photo ID issued by Missouri or the federal government makes an exception for expired licenses, if they have expired since the last general election, which was November 2004. The department did not track how recently those licenses expired.

Also, people without a driver's license or state ID card could potentially have another acceptable form of ID, such as a passport or military ID card.

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