JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A judge has ordered that the State of Missouri cease disturbing materials that could “mislead” voters to believing photo identification is required to cast a ballot.
Cole County Judge Richard Callahan’s injunction against portions of the Show-Me State’s voter identification law also prohibits Missourians from being required to sign a “contradictory and misleading” affidavit when presenting alternative forms of ID.
Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said that they plan to appeal the judges ruling.
“Although our office does not agree with all of the judge’s findings, we’re pleased the court found that the voter ID law is constitutional, and the judge did not find anyone was prevented from voting,” Ashcroft said in a statement. “We plan to seek a stay and appeal the decision to a higher court, which we believe will overturn the judge’s errors.”
The voter ID law was passed by the Missouri Legislature during Veto Session in 2016 and went into effect in mid-2017.
Under the legislation, in-person voters are given three options when casting a ballot: Option One is to present a current Missouri driver or nondriver license, current passport, or military ID; Option Two is to present an alternative form of non-photo ID and sign a sworn statement; Option Three is to cast a provisional ballot.
Callahan found “with one important exception, that the voting scheme adopted by General Assembly in HB 1631 is within its constitutional prerogative under the Missouri Constitution.”
The constitutionality of the laws was brought into question in a lawsuit filed in June 2018 by a national progressive group on behalf of a 71-year-old Jackson County woman.
Mildred Gutierrez, who has been a registered voter for more than four decades, and Priorities USA, a Democratic-aligned group who advocates for voting rights, alleged that the law passed by the Missouri General Assembly created undue burdens for voters.
Attorneys representing Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft argued in court that the law provides free photo identifications for those that do not have one, allows for an alternate form of voting, and that the lawsuit is based on “dubious and unsubstantiated claims.”
In his 6-page judgment, Callahan wrote that “For the vast majority of Missouri citizens, the photo identification requirement under Option One poses no burden whatsoever.”
The current affidavit that voters are asked to sign under Option Two is contradictory and misleading, according to Callahan.
“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.
He ordered the state be permanently enjoined from requiring voters otherwise qualified to cast a regular ballot to execute the sworn statement.
The state was also ordered to crease disseminating materials “which represent that a photo identification is required to vote” and “the graphic that voters will be asked to show a photo identification card without specifying other forms of identification which voters may also show.”
Callahan found the “the print message promulgated by the State could clearly led voters to believe that they would be unable to cast a ballot without presenting a photo identification card. Certainly, several local election authorities were led to so believe…”
“No compelling state interest is severed by misleading local election authorities and voters into believing a photo ID card is a requirement for voting,” Callahan states. “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.”
Read the full ruling below:
Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at firstname.lastname@example.org.