Missouri’s voter photo ID, registration law faces lawsuits before it takes effect

(The Center Square) – Two lawsuits seek to stop Missouri’s voter identification and registration law before it becomes effective on Aug. 28.

House Bill 1878, a 58-page omnibus elections bill signed into law by Republican Gov. Mike Parson in June, requires persons seeking to vote to show photo identification. The law also prohibits compensating people for voter registration activities and requires anyone who assists with more than 10 voter registrations to be a registered voter and register with the state. Violating the law is a class three election offense, a misdemeanor punishable by a year in prison or a fine of $2,500, or both.

The League of Women Voters (LWV) of Missouri and the Missouri State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) filed suit on Monday against the state and Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft seeking to stop the law’s provisions on voter registration. The 48-page complaint contains four counts, including a violation of the right to free speech and free association under the Missouri Constitution. The plaintiffs are represented by Campaign Legal Center, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Missouri and the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition.

“For over a century, the League of Women Voters of Missouri has worked to educate and empower voters, and we are proud of our members’ essential voter registration and education work,” Marilyn McLeod, president of the LWV of Missouri, said in a statement. “This law criminalizes work we do regularly and, ultimately, harms Missouri voters who rely on the League’s work to ensure their voices are heard at the ballot box.”

The second lawsuit claims the new law violates the fundamental right to vote and equal protection under the Missouri Constitution. The 29-page, two-count suit was filed by the ACLU and the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition on behalf of the NAACP, LWV and two voters affected by the law, D. Rene Powell and Kimberly Morgan. The suit states voter ID restrictions violate the fundamental right to vote and unduly burden the right in violation of the equal protection clause in the Missouri Constitution.

“The ability of all Missourians to cast a ballot lies at the heart of a functioning democracy,” Denise Lieberman, Director and General Counsel of the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, said in a statement. “For more than fifteen years, Missouri lawmakers have attempted to implement needless and discriminatory strict ID requirements to vote in Missouri – measures that the Missouri Supreme Court has concluded violate Missourians’ right to vote. The ID restrictions stand to burden thousands of Missouri voters who do not have or will face difficulty getting the limited ID required to cast a regular ballot – disproportionately voters of color, seniors, voters with disabilities, young voters, and low-wage workers.”

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