FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 19, 2020
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A lawsuit seeking to remove barriers to voting during the COVID-19 pandemic is heading to the Missouri Supreme Court.
The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Missouri, and Missouri Voter Protection Coalition are seeking the court’s review following Judge Jon Beetem’s dismissal of the case this week.
With at least three elections in the upcoming months (June, August, and November), the lawsuit sought a ruling from the court clarifying that all eligible voters who are confining themselves to avoid contracting or spreading COVID-19 may invoke the confinement-due-to-illness reason for absentee voting in order to prevent large-scale disenfranchisement and to secure public health.
The Legislature voted last week to allow voters who are ill and who are at high risk of serious complications from COVID-19 to cast absentee ballots without a notary, and to permit all registered voters to vote by mail. But unless voters are casting absentee ballots due to illness or because they are at high risk for COVID-19, voters who vote by mail under the new legislation will still need to obtain a notary seal on their ballot envelope.
“Missouri lawmakers expanded absentee ballot access following our legal action. As we have said from the onset of COVID-19, this is a common-sense solution that protects people’s health and their right to vote. This holds true now, and will for the months ahead as COVID-19 transmission continues,” said Sophia Lakin, deputy director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “But there are additional steps that still need to be taken to ensure Missourians can vote without risking their health, like suspending the notarization requirement for mail voting for individuals who are confining themselves to avoid contracting or spreading COVID-19. Our case seeks to resolve those issues. We are appealing.”
“We always knew this issue would be resolved by the Missouri Supreme Court. This expedites the journey to a final decision,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri.
“Even with the passage of legislation last week providing for mail voting options, this case presents important issues that will determine whether Missouri voters can safely exercise their fundamental right to vote in 2020, including the ability of voters to cast absentee ballots without a notary,” said Denise Lieberman, lawsuit co-counsel and general counsel to the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition. “These questions will now go to the Missouri Supreme Court.”
“The NAACP stands ready to defend the rights of people in court, in the streets, and in the legislature. Attacks on workers and in this case, voters, must have redress in the courts. Republican attempts to close those doors to the court and at the ballot box with wrong-minded legislation will fail as they have historically,” said Nimrod Chapel, president of the Missouri State Conference NAACP.
“We are disappointed that the court didn’t address the need to expand absentee voting by waiving the notary requirement for all absentee voters in 2020,” said Evelyn Maddox, president of the League of Women Voters of Missouri. “When people are trying to stay safe this year, Missouri’s notary requirement blocks access to the constitutional right to vote. We look forward to taking this important question to the Missouri Supreme Court.”