Circuit court judge dismisses challenge to Missouri voter photo ID
Updated at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 13 with comments from plaintiffs and officials
A new Missouri law requiring a photo ID in order to vote has survived its first court challenge, keeping the policy intact for now.
However, the ACLU of Missouri and the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition called the ruling a “procedural speed bump” and said they will continue to press the case all the way to the Missouri Supreme Court, where prior photo ID requirements have been struck down.
“Today’s ruling was only on procedural matters and not the legal issue,” the ACLU and the Coalition said in a statement.
A Cole County Circuit judge Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Missouri NAACP and the League of Women Voters of Missouri challenging the photo ID section of a new state law. The dismissal is not final, and the plaintiffs could replead with more information to restore the case.
Circuit Judge Jon Beetem ruled that the League of Women Voters and the NAACP both lacked standing and a “legally protectable interest.” The ruling said the plaintiffs “do not identify any specific members adversely affected by the challenged law.”
In a statement, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, who backed the law, praised the decision. He believes the new law makes it easier to vote but harder to commit fraud.
“I applaud and agree with the court’s decision to dismiss this lawsuit since not even the plaintiffs could find a single individual who would be prevented from voting,” Ashcroft said.
Denise Lieberman, director of the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, said it has the needed information to meet Beetem’s request.
“We offered to supplement the pleadings weeks ago when we argued the case, but we believe that that additional information is not actually required by law,” Lieberman said.
The plaintiffs filed the suit in late August, before the law went into effect on Aug. 28. It is one of two lawsuits filed against the overall elections bill that focus on different policy areas.
Under the new law, Missouri voters will have to present an approved form of a photo ID in order to cast their ballot in the upcoming November election. That ID must be a nonexpired state or federally issued ID such as an active driver’s license, a U.S. passport or a military ID. Other forms of identification, such as a student ID, would not qualify.
Those new requirements, the plaintiffs in the case have said, would disenfranchise thousands of voters in Missouri and would force many voters including students, nondrivers and others to vote through a provisional ballot, which isn’t guaranteed to count.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit have 30 days to replead the case. The other suit, which is challenging the law’s policies on voter registration, is awaiting a ruling, though Lieberman said her organization has not yet determined its next steps.
“We believe that Judge Beetem’s ruling is incorrect, that it's not consistent. So we could appeal that ruling. Or we could go ahead and supplement and take it from there,” Lieberman said.
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