Judge to decide again if Missouri’s voter ID is constitutional

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A Missouri judge will get to decide again if voters will be required to show a photo ID to cast a ballot.

Following a new law that passed in 2022, Missourians are required to show a valid government-issued photo ID to vote. While the state says no one has been denied a ballot, those challenging the requirement argue this is unconstitutional and makes it hard for some voters to cast a ballot.

“If the state of Missouri cared about the integrity of our elections, they would be working to ensure that the voices of all Missourians could be heard in the political process,” director of the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition Denise Lieberman said.

Missouri’s voter ID law is no stranger to the court system. Photo ID requirements were ruled unconstitutional in 2006 and then again in 2020.

“It seems the government needs to be reminded that the fundamental right to vote and the right to equal protection of the laws are at the core of Missouri’s constitution,” Tom Bastian, deputy communications director for the Missouri ACLU, said.

The case was dismissed last year by Cole County Judge Jon Beetem after he said neither of the two voters suing the state “alleged a specific, concrete, non-speculative injury or legally protectable interest in challenging the photo ID requirement.” Since then, the lawsuit brought forward by the voters, the Missouri League of Women voters, and the NAACP, has added another voter to the case. This time, it’s over a four-day trial.

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“I concluded that the instances of voter fraud nationally and in Missouri is exceedingly rare,” Rutgers University political science professor Lorraine Minnite testified Monday.

Minnite spent Monday morning testifying.

The newest plaintiff is John O’Connor. Attorneys said the 90-year-old from Columbia has poor vision and needs help walking. When the law went into effect last year, O’Connor had an expired passport and driver’s license, which are not acceptable under the law. Lieberman said O’Connor, born in New York, has had a hard time locating his birth certificate.

Before the law went into effect in 2022, a voter could use a student ID, a utility bill with their name and address, or a voter registration card. Those methods would now lead to a provisional ballot, meaning a voter can show back up with an acceptable ID or the polling place must match the signature on the ballot with the one on file.

“Depositions of local election authorities across the state revealed that there simply are no standards in place,” Lieberman said. “This is why we see the extreme variation in acceptance rates from one county to the next.”

Attorneys representing the Missouri ACLU and Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, who are challenging the law, said this requirement leads to lower voter turnout.

“Over 137,000 valid Missouri registered voters don’t have any Missouri ID on file with the Missouri Department of Revenue,” Lieberman said. “An additional 140,000 have an expired form of ID that would not be eligible to allow them to vote. We’re talking about a non-minuscule number of people. Any number is too many.”

Missouri Republicans have been working for decades to enact a voter ID law. In response to the trial, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said in a statement:

I will always fight to maintain Missouri’s accessible, secure and creditable elections. Regarding this case – every person has been able to vote – no one has been denied a ballot because they didn’t have an ID.

As specified in statute, my office will help get an ID for anyone who needs one to vote. Furthermore, if someone does not have an ID on Election Day, if they are registered, they can still vote.

Roughly 35 states request or require identification to vote and at least 20 other states require a photo ID to vote.

While the trial is set to conclude Wednesday, the judge has not indicated when he could issue a ruling.

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