Missouri court permanently blocks key part of voter photo ID

Litigation Regulations

The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday permanently blocked a central portion of a 2016 voter identification law that it said had required a “misleading” and “contradictory” sworn statement from people lacking a photo ID.

The 5-2 ruling upholds a decision by a lower court judge, who had blocked the affidavit requirement from being used in the 2018 general election. It had remained on hold since then.

Missouri is one of several states where Republican-led legislatures have passed voter photo ID laws touted as a means of preventing election fraud. In Missouri’s case, the state law was accompanied by a constitutional amendment, approved by 63% of voters in November 2016, that authorized the implementation of a photo ID law.

Voter photo ID laws have been opposed by Democrats, who contend they can disenfranchise poor, elderly, disabled and minority voters who are less likely to have photo IDs.

Missouri’s law allowed voters lacking a valid government-issued photo identification to cast a regular ballot if they presented another form of ID — such as utility bill, bank statement or paycheck containing their name and address — and signed a sworn statement affirming their identity. The sworn statement also included a section acknowledging that they didn’t have “a form of personal identification approved for voting” but were aware they could get a free ID card from the state.

The law said voters lacking a photo ID also could cast a provisional ballot, which would count if they later returned with a photo ID or their signatures matched the ones on file with election authorities.

The Supreme Court said the sworn statement was inaccurate because it required people to say they didn’t possess a valid form of identification for voting while simultaneously requiring them to show a non-photo identification that would allow them to vote.

“Although the State has an interest in combating voter fraud, requiring individuals ... to sign a contradictory, misleading affidavit is not a reasonable means to accomplish that goal,” Judge Mary Russell wrote in the majority opinion.

The Supreme Court also upheld the lower court’s decision to block the secretary of state’s office from disseminating any materials indicating that a photo ID is required to vote.

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