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Advocacy groups sue state of Missouri to temporarily halt new voter ID law

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Two advocacy groups, claiming the state has failed to provide necessary education to voters, have sued the state of Missouri in an effort to halt a new voter identification law.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Advancement Project filed suit Thursday against Missouri over its new voter ID law. The suit claims the state failed to provide mandated funding for voter education, free voter IDs and birth certificates and training of poll workers.

The groups seek a temporary restraining order to block the law from remaining in effect during a special election July 11 in St. Louis. In-person absentee voting for the election begins Monday. An additional 52 Missouri counties go to the polls August 8.

The case was filed on behalf of the Missouri NAACP and the League of Women Voters of Missouri.

Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri, said voters were promised the new law would not disenfranchise voters.

“The state’s lack of funding and implementation of this law tells another story,” Rothert said in a statement.

The new law went into effect June 1. Registered voters will be required to provide a Missouri driver’s license, a Missouri non-driver’s license, a passport or a military ID to vote. Or they can present a voter registration card, an ID from a Missouri university, college, vocational or technical school, a utility bill with their address, or a bank statement, among other documents. This second set of options requires them to sign a statement of eligibility as well.

The third option is for registered voters who show up to vote without any identification. They can vote on a provisional ballot but must return to their polling place and show a photo ID before their vote will count, or their signature must match the one in the voter registry.

The measure, Rothert said, mandates that the state fully fund all costs associated with implementing the law, including costs for related public education, free voter IDs and birth certificates and training of poll workers. To date, the state has appropriated just a fraction of the amount necessary to cover these costs, even as local and state elections loom.

Denise Lieberman, co-director of Power and Democracy at the Advancement Project’s national office, and coordinator of the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, said Missouri’s photo ID law was designed to make it harder for people to vote.

Proponents have said the law would help curb voter fraud.

“It is a gimmick that — as we’ve seen in other states — inevitably leads to blocking people from the ballot, especially people of color, young voters, seniors, and people with disabilities,” Lieberman said in a statement. “It is beyond unacceptable that the state of Missouri has launched a photo ID requirement while not even being prepared, trained, or properly funded for it.”

The case was filed in Cole County Circuit Court.

Toriano Porter: 816-234-4779, @torianoporter

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