Voter registration a security concern

JEFFERSON CITY – Security issues are driving a renewed attempt to add a proof of United State citizenship requirement for first-time voter registration.

Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Shell Knob) and Rep. Maynard Wallace (R-Thornfield) are sponsors of similar legislation presented in both the Senate and House, which would require proof of citizenship for individuals registering to vote for the first time.

Currently, a utility bill with the person’s name on it is the only required paperwork.

“To get a license to haul explosives or gasoline, you are required to be registered to vote,” Taylor said. “There is a terrorism aspect to this.”

Taylor said two individuals registering to vote in his home county of Barry County were reported to the U.S. Justice Department because “it was obvious that they had not been born in the United States.”

After they were apprehended, it was determined the two individuals were citizens of Iran who had already gone through the steps to obtain a license to haul gasoline, Taylor said.

“They had no contract to sell in anywhere and they had no service station of their own to sell it through,” Taylor said.

Both Taylor and Wallace said of the 9-11 terrorists, nine were illegally registered to vote.

There are potential liability concerns for Missouri country clerks and this legislation provides the tools for the clerks to challenge a person’s citizenship, Taylor said.

The only other state with a citizenship requirement is Arizona, where voters approved the change in a referendum last year.

The Arizona requirement has been challenged in federal court for restricting a person’s right to vote.

“The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Liberties division has said the state does have the right to ask for U.S. citizenship before someone is allowed to register to vote,” Taylor said.

Committee members expressed concern the added cost of obtaining a copy of their birth certificate might cause some Missourians to forgo their right to vote.

The current cost of a copy of a birth certificate in Missouri is $10.

Young Missourians obtaining their first drivers license are already required to show a certified copy of their birth certificate.

“Which is more important, the right to drive, or the right to vote?” Wallace said.

Several senators and representatives asked if there were any figures to show how many illegal immigrants are registered voters, but there is no one currently verifying citizenship of voters.

Anecdotal evidence was presented about non-citizens responding to jury summons generated from voter registrations. Non-citizens are prevented from serving on juries.

“People in Missouri deserve to have the sovereign right of state government over those who came here illegally,” Taylor said.

The proposed proof of citizenship requirement would not affect registered voters who move to Missouri from other states or those who more intrastate within Missouri.

The house bill requires perfection to clear up inconsistent language.

The bills are House Bill 66 and Senate Bill 50.