Elections

Hawley will appeal judge’s ruling striking down part of Missouri voter ID law

A national progressive organization filed a lawsuit in June against Missouri’s voter ID law on behalf of a 70-year-old Jackson County woman.
A national progressive organization filed a lawsuit in June against Missouri’s voter ID law on behalf of a 70-year-old Jackson County woman.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office plans to appeal a court ruling that struck down part of Missouri’s voter ID law, his office announced Wednesday.

In a statement, Hawley’s communications director, Mary Compton, said the office “is preparing to appeal the ruling and will promptly seek a stay pending appeal.”

The announcement comes after a Cole County judge on Tuesday upheld most of Missouri’s law requiring voters to present an ID at the polls, but struck down a provision requiring voters without a photo ID to sign a statement the court deemed “contradictory and misleading.”

Priorities USA, a national progressive organization, challenged Missouri’s voter ID law in a lawsuit filed in June.

Missouri voters in 2016 gave the state authority by a constitutional amendment to impose a voter ID requirement. Voters must present a government-issued photo ID prior to voting if they have one. Voters who don’t have a photo ID but have another form of ID without a photo were supposed to sign a statement confirming their identity under penalty of perjury.

Senior Circuit Judge Richard Callahan ruled Tuesday that the state could not require “voters otherwise qualified to cast a regular ballot” to sign the sworn statement the way it’s currently written if they didn’t have a photo ID. He said it “impermissibly infringes on a citizen’s right to vote as guaranteed under the Missouri Constitution.”

In his ruling, Callahan called the statement’s language “contradictory and misleading.”

“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,” the ruling says.

Callahan went on to say the statement represents an “outright misstatement of law” by requiring voters to acknowledge a photo ID is required to vote.

The ruling upheld the portion of the law that allows voters without any form of ID to cast a provisional ballot that would only be counted if they returned before the polls close and presented a proper ID or if election officials could determine the voter’s signature on the ballot matched the signature on file with their registration.

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft criticized the timing of the ruling in a statement Wednesday morning, saying it’s “unduly creating mass confusion.”

“Judge Callahan’s decision directs the state not to use the statement; however, local election authorities enforce the statement requirement and so it is not clear if they are bound by the judge’s decision. The Secretary of State is working with the Attorney General’s office to seek a stay and appeal the decision.”

He went on to say, “To be clear, many local election authorities have already trained poll workers — as part of ID Option 2 — to require voters to sign a statement. The judge’s decision creates confusion for voters as well as local election authorities.”

Hawley’s opponent in the race for U.S. Senate, incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill, said in a statement that Hawley should drop the appeal “and stop making it harder for Missourians to vote.”

“The court ruling on Missouri’s misguided voter ID law is a step in the right direction toward ensuring that all eligible voters can participate in our democracy without unnecessary burdens,” McCaskill said.

Callahan also scolded the state for circulating advertising material saying voters are required to present a photo ID.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Ashcroft’s office had not updated its website to indicate voters would not have to sign the statement.

Priorities USA chairman Guy Cecil celebrated the ruling in a statement.

“Today’s ruling, preventing the state of Missouri from imposing additional burdens on voters who lack photo ID, is an important victory for voting rights that will ensure that future elections in the state are open and accessible to every eligible voter,” Cecil said.

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