Civil rights activists have filed a lawsuit over Missouri’s new voter ID law. Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, who ran on a platform to implement the measure, has been on a tour of the state to explain its requirements.
The law, which went into effect June 1st, is being challenged in Cole County Circuit Court, over its funding. The court suit lead by the American Civil Liberties Union argues there’s no money to finance voter education, free voter IDs and birth certificates, and training of poll workers.
It seeks a temporary restraining order to block the law from remaining in effect during a special election in St. Louis July 11th. The ballot is taking place to fill the aldermanic seat vacated by Lyda Krewson, who was elected mayor.
Lawmakers allocated $1.5 million for the voter ID law, but Governor Eric Greitens has yet to sign the legislation, and early absentee voting starts Monday, June 12th, in St. Louis.
Tony Rothert with the ACLU of Missouri contends the law technically can’t be in effect. “The terms of the law say if there’s not an appropriation, then the ID requirements cannot go into effect” said Rothert. “There has not been an appropriation. Therefore, by the terms of the law, it should not go into effect now.”
A passage in the statute itself says “If there is not a sufficient appropriation of state funds, then the personal identification requirements…shall not be enforced”.
The law requires a government issued photo ID in order to vote. People who brings items such as a utility bill or current paycheck can still vote if they sign an affidavit acknowledging they can get a free ID. Those without a photo ID would be allowed to cast on a provisional ballot.
Voter ID laws are highly controversial. Several have been struck down in other states. One last year in North Carolina was cited by a judge for intentional suppression of African American votes.
“States are not allowed to make an end run around voting rights by forcing burdensome changes to election law and then failing to provide the required funding for proper implementation,” said ACLU attorney Sophia Lakin.
Secretary Ashcroft’s office said it’s policy to not comment on an ongoing lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed Thursday by The American Civil Liberties Union and the Advancement Project on behalf of the Missouri NAACP and the League of Women Voters of Missouri.
33 states, mostly led by Republican Governors and legislatures, have enacted some form of a voter ID law in recent years.