This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: July 29, 2008- The 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Tuesday told U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey to take another look at her 2007 ruling in which she dismissed a federal suit against the state of Missouri.
Secretary of State Robin Carnahan had maintained that she had no enforcement power to require local election officials to purge the voting rolls. Judge Laughrey agreed in throwing out the suit. She said that Missouri had made reasonable efforts to comply with federal law.
A three-judge panel of the appeals court said that federal law requires the state to; “conduct a general program that makes a reasonable effort to remove the names of ineligible voters from the official lists of eligible voters by reason of [death or change in residency].”
Judge William Jay Riley, writing for the appeals court, appeared to agree with Judge Laughrey that Carnahan couldn't force local election officials to take stronger actions to purge voter rolls. But Riley said that Judge Laughrey might consider whether the state, in order to comply with its federal obligations, should take steps to encourage local election officials to do a better job.
The court said that Judge Laughrey could reinstate her original ruling if, after further hearings, she concluded that the state was taking reasonable efforts to purge the rolls.
Nothing in the decisions appears to affect the upcoming elections. Here is the AP story on the situation. It quotes Carnahan as saying she hopes the costly suit will soon be dismissed and that she plans to continue to work with local officials to purge the rolls.
Joining Judge Riley were Judges Raymond W. Gruender, the former U.S. Attorney in St. Louis, and Bobby E. Shepherd of Arkansas.