Civic groups sue to block new law on Missouri voter outreach
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri NAACP and League of Women Voters on Monday sued to stop a new voter photo identification law that they claim will also limit voter engagement work.
Lawyers for the groups asked a local judge to block contested sections of the law from taking effect Aug. 28, weeks before the Nov. 8 election.
The law primarily requires voters to show photo identification to cast a regular ballot. People without a government-issued photo ID can cast provisional ballots that will be counted if they return later that day with a photo ID or if election officials verify their signatures.
A lesser known provision in the measure bans payment for anyone who works to help register voters and requires those volunteers to be registered Missouri voters themselves. Anyone who helps register more than 10 voters would need to sign up with the Secretary of State’s Office.
The plaintiffs alleged that the law limits free speech by restricting voter engagement.
“Missouri’s new law would make it more difficult for civil rights groups to register voters, criminalize some efforts to encourage lawfully registered voters to cast ballots, and needlessly prevent some registered voters from voting,” Missouri NAACAP general counsel Janette McCarthy Wallace said in a statement. “Put simply, the law would suppress votes and disenfranchise voters.”
Missouri’s measure was backed by Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, whose office did not immediately return an Associated Press request for comment Monday. A spokesman for Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt, whose office defends state laws against court challenges, declined to comment.
Spokesmen for the Republican secretary of state and attorney general didn’t immediately return Associated Press requests for comment Monday.
Missouri’s GOP-led Legislature approved the law this year amid renewed national emphasis on election laws.
Democrats in many states have sought to expand voter access following widespread mail-in voting during the pandemic-affected 2020 elections while many Republicans have pursued new voting restrictions that they contend would cut down on the potential for fraud.
Missouri’s new law also bans the use of drop boxes to collect absentee ballots, mandates cybersecurity reviews and prohibits private donations for elections, with exceptions for personal protective equipment, water or food for election workers. It abolishes Missouri’s presidential primary, leaving parties to instead hold caucuses or conventions, and it allows voters to register by party starting in 2023.
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