Jefferson City, Mo. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri and the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition filed a lawsuit against the State of Missouri and Secretary of State John Ashcroft challenging the voter identification requirements under recently passed House Bill 1878. The lawsuit, brought on behalf of the Missouri NAACP and League of Women Voters of Missouri and individual voters, alleges that the new restrictions violate the fundamental right to vote and equal protection under the Missouri Constitution.
"So-called Voter ID laws have always been a part of a deceitful agenda by politicians in power to stoke fear and reduce participation of registered voters in elections without evidence of a problem,” said Luz María Henríquez, Executive Director of the ACLU of Missouri. “This new law will disenfranchise Missourians, particularly people of color, people with limited income, rural Missourians, and voters with disabilities. These unnecessary and burdensome legal obstacles put in place by Missouri’s lawmakers are unconstitutional.”
In May, the Missouri legislature passed H.B. 1878. The law, which is set to go into effect just two months before the November General Election on August 28, would eliminate forms of ID Missourians currently rely upon to verify their identity at the polls.
The lawsuit challenges the provisions of H.B. 1878 that limit specific forms of photo identification to vote in person at the polls and in person absentee. The provisions in question will require federal or Missouri-issued, non-expired photo identification; they will repeal previously available alternative options for secondary identification such as Missouri student IDs, expired driver or non-driver licenses, non-photo state IDs, voter registration and voter identification cards issued by local election authorities, bank statements or utility bills. The only alternative to the strict photo identification requirement will be an unreliable and standardless signature matching option required for a voter’s provisional ballot to be counted after election day. The burden of these provisions will fall heaviest on marginalized communities, people of color, elderly voters, voters with disabilities, low-income voters, and students.
“The ability of all Missourians to cast a ballot lies at the heart of a functioning democracy,” said Denise Lieberman, Director & General Counsel of the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, which has fought strict voter ID requirements in Missouri since 2006. “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. We should be working to reduce barriers to participation for these communities, not make it harder to vote.”
The Plaintiffs in the suit are two civic organizations, the Missouri State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (Missouri NAACP) and the League of Women Voters of Missouri (LWVMO), and two impacted Missouri voters, D. Rene Powell, and Kimberly Morgan.
“We will do everything in our power to make sure the rights of Missouri voters are restored, and everyone can have their vote counted,” said Nimrod Chapel, Jr., President of the Missouri State Conference of the NAACP. “The NAACP has long raised concerns about Missouri’s efforts to implement a discriminatory voter ID law, and it is one of the reasons we have issued a travel advisory for the state. Democracy in Missouri is not a safe place for black voters.”
“The League believes the state should be making it easier, not harder, for Missourians to exercise their fundamental right to vote," said Marilyn McLeod, president of the League of Women Voters of Missouri. "Many voters used other forms of ID to vote on August 2 and have no idea that the ID rules are tightening for November 8 election. There's no evidence of voter impersonation in Missouri, so these extreme restrictions don’t make our elections any safer or more secure."
D. Rene Powell is a registered voter who regularly votes in her mid-Missouri district. Powell is disabled due to epilepsy and mobility issues which prevent her from driving and does not have a driver’s license. She typically relies on public transportation or the assistance of friends for her transportation needs. In the August Primary, she was able to use her expired non-driver license to cast her ballot. However, under the new restrictions, she will be required to arrange transportation to go to the DMV to renew her non-driver's license for the sole purpose of exercising her fundamental right to vote.
Kimberly Morgan, who resides in a small town in eastern Missouri, is a regular voter who would like to vote in the November 2022 election. However, she discovered that her name was spelled incorrectly on a replacement birth certificate after she secured a state issued ID from the state which also had the same spelling error. In the past, she used her voter registration card which bore the correct spelling of her name to cast her ballot. With the new voter restrictions, Morgan will no longer be able to exercise her fundamental right to vote with her voter registration card. Correcting the spelling and obtaining a new birth certificate and state issued non-driver's license will take a significant amount of time, effort, planning, and resources for the mother of three.
Previous legislative attempts to pass laws restricting the type of acceptable identification were ruled unconstitutional by Missouri’s Supreme Court in 2006 and 2020.
"Missouri's new voter ID law would prevent some people from using identification that they have used for decades when voting,” said Janette McCarthy Wallace, National General Counsel of the NAACP. “It would disproportionately affect people of color and prevent lawfully registered voters from casting ballots. The nonpartisan NAACP has always existed, in part, to challenge such attempts to disenfranchise Black voters."
The ACLU of Missouri and MOVPC, filed suit on behalf of MO NAACP, LWVMO, Morgan, and Powell challenging certain provisions of H.B. 1878 for violating their rights to equal protection and their fundamental right to vote as enshrined in the Missouri Constitution.