Missouri judge denies preliminary injunction in mail-in ballot lawsuit; notary still needed


ACLU, Missouri Voter Protection Coalition file appeal


A Cole County judge has denied a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit seeking to allow all Missourians to vote by mail without a notary during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Missouri and Missouri Voter Protection Coalition on behalf of the NAACP of Missouri, the League of Women Voters of Missouri and several individuals.

In May, the Missouri Legislature approved a measure expanding options for voting absentee or by mail in the 2020 elections because of the coronavirus pandemic. The expansion offers two options:

  • A voter can request an absentee ballot if he/she is in an at-risk category for contracting the virus. This option does not require notarization.
  • Any voter can request a mail-in ballot. This option does require an in-person notarization.

The lawsuit was originally filed in the Cole County Circuit Court. Judge Jon Beetem dismissed it, arguing that it failed to show real, substantial claims necessary to change Missouri voting practices without the authorization of the Legislature.

On June 23, the Missouri Supreme Court reversed the court’s decision, ruling that Beetem was wrong to dismiss it and sent it back to the lower court for consideration.

On July 10, Beetem again denied the preliminary injunction saying the groups failed to present new arguments.

“Absent evidence that the ‘consistently effective social distancing and related strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19’ could not be employed in the notary circumstances, the court concludes that plaintiffs have not made a convincing showing of irreparable harm from the notarization requirement for mail-in ballots,” he wrote.

The groups on Monday, July 13 filed an appeal to the court’s decision seeking an expedited review in light of the upcoming Aug. 4 primary election.

“We’ll be demonstrating the barriers and burdens to requiring voters to have their ballots notarized,” said Denise Lieberman, lawsuit co-counsel and general counsel to the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition.

“For example, some voters may have access public transportation and then come in contact with a notary who interacted with many people that day, which could significantly increase the risk in a way not unlike the risk of going to a polling place,” she said.

Additionally, Lieberman said many places where people would normally go to have something notarized are still closed because of the pandemic like bank lobbies or law firms where notaries are working remotely.

Requests for mail-in ballots must be received by July 22 for the Aug. 4 primary election and by Oct. 21 for the Nov. 3 general election.

Absentee/mail-in ballot requests can be downloaded at sos.mo.gov/CMSImages/ElectionGoVoteMissouri//2020FillableBallotApplication.pdf.

Fill out the request and submit the form to your local election authority. You can find the address of your local election authority online at sos.mo.gov/elections/goVoteMissouri/localelectionauthority.



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