The Slatest

Missouri Judge Blocks Part of “Contradictory and Misleading” Voter ID Law

A woman fills out her ballot for the presidential election at the Missouri National Guard Armory on November 8, 2016.
A woman fills out her ballot for the presidential election at the Missouri National Guard Armory on November 8, 2016.
Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

Missourians may find it easier to vote this November after a state circuit judge rejected a requirement that voters sign sworn statements if they wish to use non-photo identification.

Under Missouri’s voter ID law, voters must present a driver’s license, a passport, or military photo ID to cast a ballot. The law further mandates that if someone seeking to vote has a non-photo ID, such as a voter registration card, he or she must sign a statement under penalty of perjury that admits that they “do not possess a form of personal identification approved for voting” because the ID does not have a photo. Senior Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan issued a permanent injunction against the requirement Tuesday, calling it “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,” Callahan said. The judge also ruled that state officials can’t distribute notices that suggest photo ID is required to vote.

The Missouri General Assembly approved the photo ID law in 2016 ostensibly to prevent voter fraud. “If you’re registered to vote, you can vote,” Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said in a press release in early January.

According to the Kansas City Star editorial board, Ashcroft’s case about how the law will prevent voter fraud is weak. He was able to cite only one instance of fraud, a statehouse primary race in which the “aunt and uncle of the candidate voted under their own names, but in the wrong district.” (That election, in 2010, was decided by a single vote.)

Tuesday’s ruling, too, suggests that the photo ID law doesn’t necessarily help prevent voter fraud. Rather, the requirement “would place a burden on individuals not having such documents and have a negative effect on voter turnout among the percent of the population lacking such credentials,” Callahan wrote.

The decision stemmed from a June lawsuit filed by Priorities USA and a Missouri voter who believed the voter photo ID law was “burdensome” and “unconstitutional.” Pointing to a 2014 Missouri secretary of state study, Priorities USA said a comparable photo ID law “could disenfranchise 220,000 eligible Missouri voters.”

Ashcroft said he would appeal Tuesday’s decision to a higher court.

The change in voting laws could become a factor in the contentious Senate race between Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill and Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley.