October 25, 2014

Court says ‘no’ to voter photo I.D. ballot measure

A Cole County judge has struck down a measure that would only let voters with a photo identification cast a ballot.

Circuit Judge Pat Joyce called the proposal — which would be put to a vote of the people this November — “insufficient and unfair.”

According to court documents, she says the ballot summary includes the phrase “Voter Protection Act” even though the phrase never actually appears in the constitutional amendment. Secondly, the summary says the amendment would allow the General Assembly establish an early voting period, when in fact the amendment would “restrict the time period during which advance voting may occur.”

She has sent the measure back to the legislature to fix it — “Because significant change are required here and policy choices need to be made as to how to reallocate the words in a revised summary statement, the Court chooses to vacate the summary statement and to provide the General Assembly an opportunity to revise it.”

The ballot title approved by the Legislature asks voters: “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to adopt the Voter Protection Act and allow the General Assembly to provide by general law for advance voting prior to election day, voter photo identification requirements, and voter requirements based on whether one appears to vote in person or by absentee ballot?”

The bill is being shepherded through the process by House Speaker Pro Tem Shane Schoeller (R-Willard), who is also running for Secretary of State.

This is’t the first time a court has struck down such a measure: lawmakers passed a bill in 2006, which the Missouri Supreme Court said was a “heavy and substantial burden on Missourians’ free exercise of the right of suffrage.”

Secretary of State Robin Carnahan says, “The court decision finding that legislators wrote insufficient and unfair ballot language is a victory for voters’ rights. I am pleased the judge saw through this deceptive attempt to trick Missourians into thinking this proposal is about passing a Voter Protection Act. In reality, this proposal has the potential to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Missouri voters. The Missouri Constitution protects the fundamental right of eligible voters to have their voices heard. It defies common sense to weaken those rights. This debate has always been about ensuring fair elections, and elections cannot be fair if eligible voters are not allowed to make their voices heard on Election Day.” 

View a copy of the court decision here: http://bit.ly/HjUdZd

Congressman Wm. Lacy Clay (D-Missouri) is also speaking out in support of Joyce’s ruling.

“This is a victory for voting rights and it affirms the most fundamental constitutional guarantee for every citizen in Missouri,” Clay says. “Today’s ruling blocks a blatant attempt to disenfranchise seniors, students, the disabled, minorities and the rural poor. As I argued earlier this month at my Voting Rights Symposium at Harris-Stowe State University, the misleading ballot language was designed to confuse Missouri voters into approving an amendment that could have disenfranchised up to 350,000 registered voters. I want to commend the broad coalition of citizen groups and non-profit organizations who stood with me to defend the right to vote.”

Clay was joined at Harris-Stowe by Rev. Al Sharpton, who called the law “modern-day Jim Crow,” and Congressman Cleaver from Kansas City, in opposing the measure.