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Fears of noncitizens voting prompt GOP state lawmakers in Missouri to propose driver’s license label

Missouri turns 196 years old on anniversary of admission to the Union
Posted at 11:20 AM, Mar 13, 2024

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — All Missouri driver’s licenses would be labeled with a U.S. citizenship stamp under a bill approved Tuesday by Republican House members, who argued the change is needed because of an increase in illegal border crossings.

The bill, which needs another vote of approval to move to the Senate, is part of an effort by GOP lawmakers nationwide who fear more immigrants could lead to noncitizens voting — a practice that is already federally prohibited.

Experts say noncitizen voting in federal elections remains exceedingly rare. Federal law also requires states to regularly maintain their voter rolls and remove anyone ineligible, a process that identifies immigrants living in the country illegally.

Still, Ohio enacted legislation similar to Missouri's last year requiring that driver’s licenses and state ID cards indicate an individual’s citizenship status. That’s after Ohio voters banned noncitizen voting at the local level.

The idea behind the measures is that symbols of citizenship on IDs will help election officials easily identify potential noncitizens and stop them from voting.

According to data collected by the Voting Rights Lab, lawmakers in more than a dozen other states are considering a more aggressive stance: using driver's license information to purge suspected noncitizens from voter rolls. The organization tracks voting-related legislation in the states and advocates for expanded voter access.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed such a bill into law Monday.

The efforts come as Trump has repeatedly suggested — without evidence — that Democrats are encouraging migrants to flow into the country illegally in order to register them to vote in the 2024 election.

If people are capable of slavery, Republican sponsor of the Missouri bill Rep. Dan Stacy said, “it’s not a great stretch to think that misdirected human nature, seeking power through political means, would not stoop to force or coerce illegal immigrants to fill out a falsified voter registration card and use it to pad the voter rolls and voter turnout.”

Missouri Democrats warned that there's no need for the House bill, and that it could inadvertently cause problems for citizens trying to vote.

“Quite frankly, it’s a waste of the people’s time,” Rep. Bridget Walsh Moore said during a House floor debate Tuesday. “It is a solution in search of a problem.”

In Missouri, first-time voters also are checked against Social Security Administration and state Department of Revenue databases, said Missouri Association of County Clerks and Election Authorities President Eric Fey in an email.

“It is not common for non-citizens to register or vote in Missouri,” Fey said. “There have, however, been a handful of instances of non-citizens registering or voting caught by Missouri election authorities in past years.”

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Associated Press writers Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta and Isabella Volmert in Indianapolis contributed to this report.