Know Your Rights at the Polls, Missouri

October 26, 2016

Know your rights as a voter this election season. The ACLU of Missouri organizers and volunteers spent countless hours canvassing over the past few weeks sharing this information. Just in case we didn't make it to your house, we wanted to be sure you had access to a handy card with all of your voter's rights in one place. 

Please feel free to print the images below or download a PDF version here

For more information poll monitors, campaigning at the polls, and protecting the rights of registered voters, download this Know Your Rights against Voter Intimidation from ACLU National. 


Category: Voting Rights

Amendment 3 is a “Trojan Horse” for Government Interference in Religious Freedom

October 25, 2016

ACLU of Missouri says proposal paves way for public funds to be used for religious purposes 

ST. LOUIS – Tucked into one line of Amendment 3, a tobacco tax-early childhood education funding initiative on Missouri’s ballot November 8, is a dangerous clause that could destroy the rights of Missourians to be free from forced support of religious institutions and activities.

 “In one hidden line, the makers of Amendment 3 are undermining our American ideal of protecting religion and democracy,” said ACLU of Missouri Executive Director Jeffrey Mittman. “Amendment 3 is a dangerous Trojan Horse that violates the constitutional rights of all Missourians.”

Amendment 3 states: “Distributions of funds under this amendment shall not be limited or prohibited by the provisions of Article IX, section 8.” 

Article IX, section 8 refers to the “Prohibition of public aid for religious purposes and institutions” in the 1875 Missouri Constitution.

“Allowing for freedom of religious expression is at the bedrock of our democracy,” Mittman said. “In order for the U.S. to remain a nation with some of the greatest religious freedom in the world, we must be vigilant of any laws that compromise our constitution.”

The ACLU of Missouri urges Missourians to vote no on Amendment 3 on November 8.

Statement from the ACLU of Missouri on St. Louis City Board of Aldermen Bill No. 151

October 18, 2016

The ACLU of Missouri supports Board Bill 151 for primarily two reasons:  

(1) Domestic violence victims, who are disproportionately women, are more likely to call the police and as the law currently stands, are at greater risk of being charged with a public nuisance violation.  

(2) The bill encourages victims of stalking and domestic violence to call police when they are in trouble.  

Board Bill 151 could help improve law enforcement and public safety. It is imperative that law enforcement officers are trained to appropriately coded calls from victims of domestic violence. According to several studies referenced by HUD, victims are still frequently deemed to have committed nuisance conduct because the calls are incorrectly coded as a type of nuisance conduct. Sometimes, people are afraid to identify themselves as victims of abuse. We urge the city to regularly report on how the ordinance is being enforced. 

Although Board Bill 151 makes important and necessary revisions to the City’s current public nuisance laws, the ACLU of Missouri believes that St. Louis City still needs to make the following five important improvements and changes:  

(1) All victims of crimes should be exempt from being charged with a public nuisance violation. The ACLU of Missouri is concerned that victims of firearm violence would face eviction along with the perpetrator. 

(2) The language describing a public nuisance is too vague. The bill says a tenant should be charged with a public nuisance when they are “maintaining or permitting a condition or engaging in an activity which unreasonably annoys, injures, or endangers the safety, health, morals, or repose of any inhabitants of the City of St. Louis or a part thereof.” The bill’s language does not clearly state what a tenant can or cannot do.  

(3) Public nuisance violations should require that the tenant knowingly violated the ordinance. A tenant should not charged with a public nuisance violation if they inadvertently make errors in a police report. 

(4) The ACLU of Missouri believes that tenants should not be charged with a public nuisance violation for “misdemeanor and ordinance violations” on the basis of allegations. The current ordinance does not require convictions before deeming a property to be a nuisance. This is problematic because the city could allege low-level offenses (misdemeanors or ordinance violations) that result in activating the ordinance, even when the conduct might not merit a criminal justice response.   

(5) The due process rights of all tenants should be protected by requiring that the Director of Public Safety provide:   

  • A written notice of a public nuisance to all tenants, not just victims of stalking or domestic violence.  

  • The tenant ample opportunity to meet with a representative of the city to discuss the allegations in the notice and the need for abatement measures.  

The ACLU of Missouri urges the Public Safety Committee to pass Board Bill 151. However, in order for the bill to more effectively protect constitutional rights, we strongly encourage the Board of Aldermen to consider making our requested changes. We will be monitoring the progress of the legislation and enforcement of the provisions if the bill passes.  

Category: Due Process

ACLU of Missouri Statement Against Florissant Public Nuisance Bill

October 10, 2016

Statement from the ACLU of Missouri on Florissant City Council Bill No. 9226:

It is deeply troubling that the Florissant City Council is considering strengthening a nuisance law that incentivizes landlords to evict crime victims, undermines law enforcement and public safety, is discriminatory and may wrongfully exclude refugees and other immigrants. Similar nuisance laws that have passed have had a negative effect on their communities.

  • Victims of crime might hesitate to seek help from law enforcement if they know that that officers must notify their landlord of alleged nuisance conduct and this could lead to an eviction.  
  • This bill would likely embolden abusers, present a financial burden to domestic violence victims through fines and present another legal burden to victims.  

  • The bill is also discriminatory and may wrongfully exclude refugees and immigrants. These proposed requirements for evicting a tenant will likely result in more tenants of color being evicted. The bill also requires that homeowners must send “a copy of a Federal or State issued identification of the owner of record of such residential property” prior to permitting any occupancy. 

  • The bill lacks necessary due process protections because landlords should be given discretion to best determine who is able to become a tenant. Encouraging landlords to perform blanket background checks will likely have a discriminatory impact on communities of color that are arrested, convicted and incarcerated at rates disproportionate to their share of the general population. 

  • This bill is problematic because it punishes landlords for nuisances. Currently, rental property owners have the right to evict their tenant if the tenant is engaging in illegal use of the premises according to MO Statute 441.020. 

 The ACLU of Missouri urges the Council to reject bill No. 9226. The ACLU will be monitoring the council's vote and any enforcement of the provisions if the bill passes. 

Category: Due Process

ACLU of Missouri Stands with Standing Rock

September 22, 2016

The ACLU of Missouri has long been committed to supporting and defending the rights of indigenous people and communities. We recognize the vital roles peaceful protest, nonviolent civil disobedience, and activism play in defending our civil and human rights. 

The ACLU of Missouri stands with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its allied indigenous nations and supporters across the globe as they speak out against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.  As such, we denounce any government suppression of the right to protest and militarized policing of protesters by the state of North Dakota.
Help us stand with Standing Rock.  Sign our petition and tell Governor Dalrymple to demilitarize North Dakota’s response to peaceful protesters and protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline.  Ask him to stand down the National Guard; remove the highway checkpoint leading to protest encampments and the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s reservation; and ensure state and county police do not appear at peaceful protest or nonviolent acts of civil disobedience in riot gear.

ACLU of Missouri Sues KC Public Schools for Handcuffing Second Grader

September 08, 2016

Photo of Kalyb Primm

Unconstitutional and unnecessary force was used on 7-year-old student

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  --  The ACLU of Missouri has filed a lawsuit in federal court today against the Kansas City Public Schools on behalf of a child who was handcuffed by an elementary school resource officer in 2014.

Kalyb Wiley Primm, 7, was handcuffed for more than 15 minutes while waiting in the principal’s office for a parent to arrive after he was removed from class, handcuffed, and pushed down a hallway after he cried out in response to being bullied in his classroom. At the time, he stood less than 4 feet tall and weighed less than 50 pounds. 

“This child committed no crime, threatened no one, and posed no danger to anyone,” said ACLU of Missouri Legal Director Tony Rothert. “Gratuitously handcuffing children is cowardly and violates the constitution.”

The incident also violated state policy, which says that the use of restraints for elementary and secondary students should be used only in extreme circumstances or emergencies.

After this incident, Kalyb was so scared to return to school that his mother withdrew him. He was homeschooled for the next two years.

“Our children need trained and concerned figures in schools that know how to intervene. It's not okay to abuse your authority and handcuff kids as a means of discipline,” said Tomesha Primm, Kalyb's mother. “As a parent, I want to make sure no other child – in Kansas City or anywhere else in the country – experiences what my son did.”

Missouri has the highest black-white disparity rate in the U.S. when it comes to disciplining elementary school students, according to a 2015 study by The Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California-Los Angeles.

“What happened to this child is simply wrong,” said ACLU of Missouri Executive Director Jeffrey Mittman. “This is a call to action for all of us to stop the unnecessary punishment that happens to young boys of color all across our nation – and particularly in Missouri.”

Today’s lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

Read the full complaint here


Join Us for a Free, Advance Screening of Oliver Stone's "Snowden"

September 02, 2016

Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA's mass spying programs, sparking the biggest debate about government surveillance in decades.

Now he's the subject of a new film by Oliver Stone, "Snowden," and you're invited to a free, advance screening hosted by the ACLU of Missouri on Tuesday, September 13. The epic story of his act of conscience and the aftermath of his disclosures makes for one of the most-discussed films of the year.

"Snowden" Advance Screening
Tuesday, September 13, 7-10 p.m.
AMC Esquire 7
6706 Clayton Road
St. Louis, MO 63117

Join us for the screening, plus a Q&A to follow on the First Amendment, privacy rights, and whistleblowers.

This event is free and open to the public. However, we encourage you to considermaking a donation and supporting our work to protect your privacy rights.

RSVP today!

ACLU of Missouri Sues State Corrections Department Over Selection of Execution Witnesses

August 31, 2016

 Director's Role as Sole Selector Violates 14th Amendment

JEFFERSON CITY, MO --The ACLU of Missouri filed a complaint in federal court today challenging the Missouri Department of Corrections' process for selecting witnesses for executions. 

 Since he applied to witness a Missouri execution in January 2014, investigative journalist Christopher S. McDaniel has yet to receive a response to his application from the Missouri Department of Corrections, effectively denying him the opportunity to witness any of the 17 executions that the state has carried out since he submitted his application.

The request approval is solely at the discretion of the director of the Missouri Department of Corrections.

 "The Missouri Department of Corrections has shown a disturbing pattern of behavior that's been keeping the public from knowing about its unsavory and possibly illegal practices related to the death penalty," said Tony Rothert, legal director for ACLU of Missouri. "Execution witnesses are an important check to ensure the department does not abuse its power. That check does not work when the Department can choose to exclude anyone critical of its behavior."

 McDaniel’s reporting has exposed disturbing and potentially illegal practices with regard to the death penalty in Missouri.  

 The ACLU of Missouri submitted a public records request to the Missouri Department of Corrections for copies of applications to witness executions.  The department eventually turned over the applications, but only after litigation was required to compel it to comply with state law.  Upon review of the applications, it was discovered that every applicant who, like McDaniel, expressed a desire to ensure that executions were carried out properly and constitutionally, was denied the opportunity to witness an execution.

"The ACLU of Missouri protects the constitutional rights of all Missourians," said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of ACLU of Missouri. "It's unconstitutional for the Missouri Department of Corrections to discriminate against individuals because of their political beliefs, plain and simple."

 The ACLU of Missouri has filed six lawsuits against the Missouri Department of Corrections seeking documents regarding the state’s execution protocol and policies. In December 2015, the Circuit Court of Cole County ruled that the department knowingly violated the Sunshine Law by refusing to provide information related to the state’s execution witness selection process.

 Today’s lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

Read the full complaint.






ACLU of Missouri Hires New Director of Communications

August 29, 2016

Daniela Velázquez joins ACLU of Missouri team to lead communication efforts

 ST. LOUIS -- Today, the ACLU of Missouri announced that seasoned communications professional and former journalist Daniela Velázquez is joining its team as the new Director of Communications. 

“We’re thrilled to welcome a great talent in Daniela Velázquez to our team,” said ACLU of Missouri Executive Director, Jeffrey Mittman. “Daniela's combination of non-profit, journalism, government and private sector experience is a perfect fit for the work we do."

“I’ve long admired the work of the ACLU of Missouri,” said Daniela Velázquez. “This position will put my communication skills to good use, protecting the civil liberties of all Missourians.”

Prior to the ACLU, Daniela worked with organizations big and small, in corporate communications, as well as for government and nonprofit organizations.  As the principal of her own consulting firm, she worked with the Ferguson Commission, St. Louis Mosaic Project and the Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates (MIRA). Daniela honed her storytelling skills while covering news in Florida. She worked as an online news producer for Tampa Bay Online ( and reported and wrote feature and general assignment stories for The Tampa Tribune and NBC-affiliate WFLA-TV/News Channel 8. Daniela holds a Bachelor of Journalism in News Editorial and a Bachelor of Arts in History, both from the University of Missouri-Columbia.


Court Finds Ferguson-Florissant School Board Elections in Violation of Voting Rights Act

August 22, 2016

ST. LOUIS – A federal judge ruled today that the Ferguson-Florissant School District’s process for electing school board members violates the Voting Rights Act and can no longer continue until the process is changed. The decision today came in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri.

In December, the ACLU of Missouri filed a federal lawsuit against the Ferguson-Florissant School District, on behalf of the Missouri NAACP and African-American residents, charging that the district's electoral system locked African-Americans out of the political process through the at-large system that dilutes African-American voting strength.

“The ongoing effects of racial discrimination have long plagued the region, and the District in particular, have affected the ability of African Americans to participate equally in the political process,” wrote U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel in the decision.

African-Americans constitute a minority of the district’s voting age population, and under the at-large system they were systematically unable to elect candidates of their choice. Today’s decision demonstrates that the at-large arrangement has a discriminatory effect on African-American voters.

"This case is about African-American communities being able to hold their government accountable,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. “Today’s decision will lead to future school boards that are responsive to the needs of the community.”

“The importance of ensuring fair elections for all Americans cannot be overstated.  The NAACP, in conjunction with the ACLU, has worked tirelessly to ensure that the rights of all citizens are protected,” said Missouri State Conference of the NAACP President Nimrod Chapel. “We are proud of the result in this case.”

The Ferguson-Florissant School District has a history fraught with discrimination against African-American citizens. The district, which spans several municipalities, was created by a 1975 desegregation order intended to remedy the effects of discrimination against African-American students. Yet, 40 years later, there was just one African-American member on the seven-member board in a district where African-Americans constitute 77 percent of the student body. Since the filing of this case, another African-American school board member was elected. There are currently two African-Americans serving on the board.
The decision can be viewed here

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