Judge blocks key provision of Missouri’s photo voter ID law

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YOU DON’T HAVE TO present a state-issued photo ID to vote in Missouri, a Cole County judge has ruled. Other forms of ID, such as a voter registration card, bank statement, utility bill or student ID will suffice. – Rogelio V. Solis/AP photo

Ashcroft ordered to stop misleading voters and election authorities

Jefferson City – A Cole County judge on Oct. 9 blocked enforcement of a key provision of Missouri’s photo voter identification law and ordered Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft to stop disseminating misleading information to the public and local elections officials that falsely implies that government-issued photo ID is required to vote.

Senior Cole County Judge Richard Callahan said the state cannot advertise that a photo identification is required to cast a ballot.

The Republican-controlled General Assembly enacted the photo voter ID law over Democratic Governor Jay Nixon’s veto in 2016. While as originally proposed that measure would have imposed a strict photo ID requirement to vote, the Senate softened the language to allow voters without a driver’s license or non-driver state ID card to continue to use alternate forms of ID that previously had been allowed, such as a voter registration card, bank statement, utility bill or student ID.

To use one of the alternatives, the new law requires voters to sign an affidavit under penalty of perjury that they don’t have a form of ID authorized by the law for voting purposes.

‘CONTRADICTORY AND MISLEADING’

Ruling in a case brought by voting rights group Priorities USA, Callahan said the affidavit language was “contradictory and misleading.”

“The affidavit plainly requires the voter to swear that they do not possess a form of personal identification approved for voting while simultaneously presenting to the election authority a form of personal identification that is approved,” Callahan wrote, adding that the affidavit requirement “impermissibly infringes on a citizen’s right to vote as guaranteed under the Missouri Constitution.”

ORDERS ASHCROFT TO STOP MISLEADING VOTERS

Although his ruling doesn’t invalidate the ID requirement altogether, Callahan said “No compelling state interest is served by misleading local election authorities and voters into believing a photo ID card is a requirement for voting,”

With the affidavit requirement blocked, Callahan’s ruling restores the rules on voter ID more or less to what they were prior to the enactment of the 2016 law.

Although Ashcroft plans to appeal, Callahan’s injunction will remain in place for the Nov. 6 elections unless overturned by a higher court prior to Election Day.

In the meantime, Callahan ordered Ashcroft to stop running advertisements and distributing information to local elections officials that falsely implies a government-issued photo ID is required to vote.

YOU CAN LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT

“No compelling interest is served by misleading local election authorities and voters into believing a photo ID card is a requirement for voting,” Callahan wrote. “In the case of the former it results in qualified voters being turned away at the polls; in the case of the latter it results in qualified voters not even showing up at the polls. As desirable as a Missouri-issued photo ID might be, unlike an American Express Card, you may leave home without it, at least on Election Day.”

For more information on the voting process, absentee ballots, polling locations and forms of identification that may be used, visit: sos.mo.gov/elections/goVoteMissouri/howtovote.

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