JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A judge dismissed a lawsuit Thursday challenging Missouri’s newly-enforced Photo ID law for elections.
The lawsuit, filed by the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, targets a sweeping law enacted in August that primarily requires voters to show government-issued photo ID at the polls to cast a regular ballot.
Because the lawsuit was dismissed, Missouri’s Photo ID laws will remain in place for the upcoming Nov. 8 election.
Under the law, Missourians can only cast a vote by showing a driver’s license or a U.S. or state-issued ID with the voter’s photo and address. Additionally, people without a government-issued photo ID can cast provisional ballots that will be counted only if they return later that day with a photo ID or if election officials verify their signatures.
The law also prevents groups and individuals from soliciting voters to request absentee ballots. Violations of the Voter ID law are punishable by up to five years imprisonment, the loss of the right to vote, and fines up to $250,000.
Plaintiffs with the Missouri NAACP say the legislation infringes on their freedom of speech and their ability to engage with voters. Opponents of the lawsuit argued the concern some voters won’t be able to obtain proper identification in order to cast regular ballots was speculation and election officials rarely decline to verify voter signatures on provisional ballots.
The Missouri ACLU and the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, also with ties to the lawsuit, released the following joint statement on the decision.
“Today’s ruling was only on procedural matters and not the legal issue. While the decision from the Cole County Circuit Court is wrong and is contrary to precedent set by Priorities and Weinschenk, we all recognize that this is a procedural pit stop on the way to having the Missouri Supreme Court decide the issue as they have twice before striking down less restrictive requirements.
“Missouri’s Constitution provides all Missourians with the fundamental right to vote. Voter ID restrictions disenfranchise Missourians, particularly people of color, people with disabilities, rural Missourians, voters with limited income, seniors and students. Similar attempts to create unnecessary and burdensome obstacles have been struck down multiple times by the courts over the past decade in a half.
“The ACLU of Missouri and the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition will continue to press the case to get a decision from the Missouri Supreme Court.”
Seventeen states besides Missouri had voter photo identification laws in effect as of this spring. Ninteen states had identification laws that accepted proof other than photos.