An Open Letter to State Rep. Shamed Dogan

vote-counts1Dear State Representative Dogan:

I read with great interest your 11/29/2016 guest column “How Missouri’s new voter photo ID requirement works” in the St. Louis American.

As a committeewoman, one of my jobs will be to assist voters in complying with the new law. Sadly, your guest column did not answer any of my questions. So, I am respectfully requesting that you write a follow up column on how one gets a copy of a Missouri Birth Certificate without having a Photo ID.

For example, the mail-in method for a Birth Certificate Copy requires a notarized signature. Perhaps you could provide a list of public notaries in each county and the City of St. Louis who notarize signatures without a Photo ID.

For example, the walk-in method for a Birth Certificate Copy requires a Photo ID of the copy applicant. The copy applicant may be an immediate relative. If the voter’s immediate relative with a Photo ID does not live locally, does the General Assembly plan on paying for transportation, lodging, and compensation for use of a vacation days or lost wages? What if there is no immediate relative with a Photo ID or the voter is not on speaking terms with any immediate relative with a Photo ID?

And how does the Free Supportive Documents work since reimbursement would still place a financial burden upon the voter? Requiring a fee of any kind to vote is a poll tax, as I am sure you are aware.

Counties, including the City of St Louis, pay the State of Missouri to access the State’s Vital Records database and the copy fees are deposited to county general revenue. The Hancock Amendment would prevent the General Assembly from forcing county Vital Records offices to give out free copies.

Or is the plan for voters to get their Free Birth Certificate copies from Jefferson City? Sir, try doing that as a citizen who is not an elected official. See how long it takes to get the copy or if you get the correct copy the first time. Then try helping someone with the surname Jefferson, Johnson, Jones, Smith, or Williams get a correct copy from Jefferson City.

And has anyone considered the type of identity fraud and possible aiding of terrorism if the Missouri General Assembly lifts the Photo ID or notarized signature provisions for Birth Certificate copy requests and just lets anyone write in for a copy?

And then there’s the money for all this. But, for right now, I just want to know how you think this will really work.

I look forward to the answers.

Marie Ceselski
7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman
St. Louis City


Missouri GOP Fast Tracks Poorly Written, Unnecessary Voter ID Bills

We have a lot of problems in Missouri. Election Day voter fraud isn’t one of them. So, naturally, the GOP feels a need to fast track Voter ID proposals to combat imaginary fraud with Voter Photo IDs. And on the fourteenth day after the General Assembly came into session, the Missouri House gave first round approval t0 legislation designed to disenfranchise voters.

House Joint Resolution 53 by State Rep. Tony Dugger, a rancher from Wright County, would require a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment to maybe require Voter IDs.

It is horrible public policy to junk up a state constitution with a maybe, a generic promise to consider constitutional some future act by State legislators.

You would give the General Assembly incredible power over your right to vote with that Constitutional Amendment. They could, as example, require you to be tattoo barcoded with an ID number in order to vote. It’s highly unlikely that would happen but that is how vague the proposed Constitutional Amendment is.

House Bill 1631 by State Rep. Justin Alferman, a former Missouri House staffer from Hermann, would maybe require Voter IDs and establish, subject to funding, a new state bureaucracy to make it happen.


Under House Bill 1631, if you could not afford a State ID, the State or your local DMV Office (such as the DMV office at City Hall run by Collector of Revenue Gregg Daly) would provide you with a free one.

But, in order to obtain a State ID in Missouri, and every other state, you have to provide supportive documentation on who you are, including a certified copy of your Birth Certificate. Under House Bill 1631, the State or your local Health Department’s Vital Records office (or Recorder of Deeds in the case of St. Louis City) would have to give you a free copy of your Birth Certificate.

Great. Not great. Apparently, State Rep. Alferman has not recently purchased a copy of a Birth Certificate.  In most states, including Missouri, you must provide a Photo ID to get the copy. So, before you can get a Missouri ID, you must already have a valid ID. Oops.

Then there’s the certified copy of your Marriage License that you’ll need if your current name is different from your birth name because of marriage. It’s not free and House Bill 1631 can’t force county offices that issue Marriage Licenses (Recorder of Deeds) to give out free copies without the State paying for it, which is not articulated in the proposal.

And what if you were born in another state or married in another country? The Missouri General Assembly cannot force others to give you a free copy of your Birth Certificate or Marriage License or do away with their identification before purchase requirements.

When I hear from Voter ID proponents that only a few people would be hurt by all this, I think back to when people in wheelchairs could not vote because their polling place or their election office was up a flight of stairs. Back then people also said, it only affects a few. The number affected still made it very wrong.

These Voter ID proposals are a solution to an imaginary illegal election day problem in Missouri. Have there been voter registration cases? Yes. The legislation, however, has nothing to do with that. Nor does the legislation have anything to do with absentee ballots, which do not currently require an ID.

The history of election fraud and intrigue in St. Louis began in 1814 with the election of Rufus Easton as our Missouri Territory Delegate to Congress. Easton’s opponent, John Scott, contested the election based on fraud. During the two year election investigation, Easton made his mark upon Missouri as champion of new post offices, land grants for veterans, and the first federal disaster relief in the U.S.- land grants for New Madrid Earthquake victims. And, then, after all his accomplishments, Congress overturned his election because of incompetence by election officials.

In the 1816 Easton v. Scott election, Scott won by a mere 15 votes and Easton contested the results. Irregularities included polling places moved without notice; no one showing up to conduct the election at some polling places; sheriffs were not given proper notice on polling places so they could do their job protecting the integrity of the ballot boxes; and there were no poll books kept to document voter registration and who voted. On top of that, there was a fair amount of voter intimidation, violence at polling places being as normal for the times as settling disagreements with duels.

Congress declared the seat vacant, again, and called for a new election. The 1817 Easton v. Scott election had much of the same drama as the previous election, but Scott’s supporters introduced whiskey for votes at polling places. Scott was victorious. It was not even close.

Ratification of the 15th Amendment in 1870 did not really guarantee the right to vote for African American men. States enacted poll taxes and literacy tests to disenfranchise them. Additionally, here in St. Louis, there was disenfranchisement by criminal record of someone who shared the same last name.

The St. Louis Police Department once made lists of ex-offenders. Police used the lists to make arrests of African Americans at the polls, it being illegal for an ex-offender to vote at the time. It mattered not that your address did not match the address of the ex-offender. It mattered not that your name was only close to that of an ex-offender. It mattered not that the ex-offender’s offense was from somewhere in Missouri that you had never heard of. It mattered not that the ex-offender was not African American.

Those arrested were jailed but never convicted. The entire exercise was about throwing out the ballots of men of color and trying to provide a menacing environment where African Americans would not even try to vote.

Voter intimidation was common by organized crime- Egan’s Rats and Bottoms Gang- in St. Louis in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Election-related murders occurred. There was the stuffing of ballot boxes, but keeping men from voting had a far bigger impact on the outcome of elections.

The 1916 Presidential Election in St. Louis was tainted by a growing belief in the St. Louis Police Department and Democratic Party that men of color were being imported into St. Louis by Republicans- known as “colonization”- to influence elections.

1fairinvestigationThe 1917 Missouri General Assembly Joint Special Committee on the Contest of Lamm v. Gardner for Governor decided not to provide a full and fair investigation of election fraud because of the time and expense required. One of the issues in the contested election was the charge “that two thousand negroes were intimidated by arrest and threats of arrest, and by reason of such intimidation did not cast their ballots.”

And on and on and on. We know what election fraud looks like in Missouri. It is the face of those who would steal an election by making it more difficult to register and vote, who try to intimidate the less powerful, and who would reduce turnout if given the opportunity.

This latest proposals might pay for some documentation not easily obtained, or that may not even exist, in an effort to remove the poll tax stigma. And so, again, we, the taxpayers, will pick up the tab for law suits to defend voters against something we thought we outlawed.

On January 23, 1964, the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified and eliminated federal poll taxes.

Missouri was the 34th State to ratify the 24th Amendment.

But it was not until the Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections decision on March 24, 1966, that poll taxes were eliminated for state and local elections.

It is 2016 and the Missouri General Assembly still does not get it- “There can be no one too poor to vote,” said President Lyndon Johnson upon ratification of the 24th Amendment.

Voting is a responsibility to be shared by us all, not just a few. We can and should make voting easier, not harder, and we can do it while safeguarding the integrity of the results.

If you would like to contact your state legislators on this or another matter, you can find contact information here.

GOP Wants Fill In The Blank Poll Tax Constitutional Amendment

Republican legislators in Missouri want another handout. This time, they want taxpayers to foot the bill for endless lawsuits on one of their red meat agenda items- poll taxes, also known as Voter Identification requirements.

When you require people to spend money in order to vote, it’s a poll tax. Requiring people to pay for documentation necessary to secure a Photo Identification Card before they cast a ballot is requiring them to pay a poll tax.

“Shall the Constitution of Missouri be amended to state that voters may be required by law, which may be subject to exception, to verify one’s identity, citizenship, and residence by presenting identification that may include valid government-issued photo identification?”

That’s the ballot language for the first constitutional amendment proposed this year in the Missouri House: HJR1 by State Rep. Tony Duggar (Wright and Webster Counties).

The object is to get voters to adopt a generic enabling provision for Voter Identification into the Missouri Constitution. It’s a one time expense to the GOP. After it’s in the Constitution, Republicans have the votes in the General Assembly to fill in the details deliberately left out of the constitutional amendment- a poll tax bill every legislative session if they want. And, each time, there will be a court challenge and the Missouri Attorney General will have to defend the poll tax, with you and me picking up the tab.

Sure. The GOP dominated legislature can require Motor Vehicle fee offices to provide free State Identification Cards.

But that free State Identification Card will require documentation that is not free and, in some cases, not easy to obtain.

You will need a Certified Copy of your Birth Certificate to get an ID Card.  In Missouri, that Birth Certificate will cost you $15.

Sure. The GOP dominated legislature can require the Missouri Department of Health to issue free Birth Certificate copies.

But that free Birth Certificate copy will require you to show a State Identification Card, which you will never get because you cannot get the Birth Certificate copy.

Lather. Rinse Repeat.

And what could possibly go wrong when ordering a copy of your Birth Certificate from the State of Missouri?

You find out that your name is misspelled on your Birth Certificate.

You find out the State of Missouri has lost your Birth Certificate.

You find out that you have no Birth Certificate in the name you have always used because it turns out you were adopted and your adoptive parents didn’t file for an amended Birth Certificate.

You find out that there is no record of your birth in Missouri and anyone who might have known where you were really born is deceased.

In cases where a Birth Certificate problem can be corrected by the State of Missouri, it can take months.

Now a married woman who took her husband’s surname after the ceremony will also need a Certified Copy of her Marriage License, in addition to her Birth Certificate. If you married in Missouri, you’ll pay $9-$12 for that copy. It’s unlikely that the GOP dominated legislature would do anything about making those copies free. $7 of that fee goes to the Missouri Children’s Trust Fund and the rest goes to county general revenue. The State would have to replace that income because of the Hancock Amendment.

Then there’s the part where not everyone living in Missouri, who wants to vote here, was born here. The GOP dominated legislature certainly cannot force other states to give out free copies of Birth Certificates and Marriage Licenses.

In the end, it’s a poll tax and courts will see it that way. But that’s not the point. It’s not about policy making or statesmanship or good government or even less government. It’s about red meat. It’s about conning Missouri voters into giving the GOP an annual opportunity to write absurd legislation that taxpayers then have to pay to defend.

So when Missouri House Speaker John Diehl says there is No Ferguson Agenda, he means there will be nothing helpful. He does not mean that Republicans will not take advantage of the times and feed their rural constituents with the red meat of disenfranchising urban voters.

— Marie Ceselski