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GEORGE KENNEDY: New voter ID law seems to be a benefit to voters

I voted against the constitutional amendment that passed last year requiring a valid photo ID for voting in Missouri elections, beginning with the local election Aug. 8.

Like many of you, I suspect, I thought the requirement, heavily promoted by Republicans, was really intended more to discourage voting by minorities, poor people and new citizens — groups more likely to be Democrats — than it was to prevent the rare cases of voter fraud.

So when I saw the notice of a forum on the topic to be held at the public library last Monday night, and when I read that the forum was sponsored by two Democratic state representatives and co-sponsored by three African-American organizations, I expected to hear a full-throated attack on yet another voter-suppression tactic.

I was wrong.

That became evident in the first five minutes, when Wendy Noren, who just announced her retirement after 35 years as our staunchly Democratic but fiercely independent county clerk, began to speak.

“Forget everything you’ve heard,” she instructed the 50 or so people in the library’s Friends Room.

She went on to explain that the new law is not to be confused with the version passed a decade ago and overturned by the courts. That one did impose some draconian requirements. This one, by contrast, is actually “a benefit to voters,” she said.

She praised Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and quoted the theme of the statewide educational campaign being conducted by his office: “If you’re registered to vote, you can vote.”

Read more here.

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