Missouri organization preps for court battle on sweeping elections bill (LISTEN)

by | Jul 12, 2022 | Elections, Legislature, News, Show Me Today

To hear the Show Me Today interview with Denise Lieberman, click below (12:30).

To hear the Show Me Today interview with Rep. John Simmons, R-Washington, click below (10:16).

An elections bill signed into law last month appears to be headed to court. Denise Lieberman, the Director and General Counsel with the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, said her organization is prepping to file a lawsuit against House Bill 1878.

“We believe that many provisions of House Bill 1878 are unconstitutional, infringe on the fundamental right to vote, and infringe on the free speech and free association rights of organizations that help voters get access to the voting process,” said Lieberman.

Missouri organization preps for court battle on sweeping elections bill

Gov. Mike Parson signed the bill into law that would make sweeping changes to the state’s elections system.

Under the bill, it would require a government-issued photo ID to vote beginning in this November’s election. If a voter does not have proper ID, they would be allowed to fill out a provisional ballot. If they return with proper ID on Election Day, then their vote would count.

The legislation would allow no-excuse absentee ballot voting for two weeks prior to an election. If the voter ID provisions are kicked out in court, the absentee voting language would no longer apply.

The plan would ban election ballot drop boxes, certain donations to election authorities, and elections would move to paper ballots only beginning in January 2024. It would also eliminate Missouri’s presidential preference primary and instead go with a caucus format.

Lieberman said the state Supreme Court has already concluded that eliminating most forms of ID allowed to vote is unconstitutional.

“And the reason this requirement has been found unconstitutional is because it can be difficult, and in some cases, impossible to get the kind of ID that’s needed at the DMV,” she said.

Lieberman said other provisions she is deeply concerned about bans people from being paid or otherwise compensated for working at voter registration events.

“This will really grind to a halt voter registration drives that may be organized by organizations that have staff, grind to a halt voter registration drives that are attendant to organizations other activities,” said Lieberman.

She said volunteer drives could be held but volunteers would be required to register with the state if they plan to help at least 10 people register in any election. According to Lieberman, the bill also makes it illegal for organizations to get applications to people who want to request an absentee ballot.

House Bill 1878 is sponsored by state Representative John Simmons, R-Washington. He said he is not surprised by the looming court challenge.

“They have opposed the overwhelming support of the voting public (2016 ballot passage) on this issue regarding showing a photo ID to prove one’s identity. I am confident, as is Secretary Ashcroft, the two procedural options to vote, show photo ID, or cast a provisional ballot will be upheld in the courts,” said Simmons. “The courts have, in fact, opined those two options were constitutional in their Priorities USA 2020 filing. Maybe if the MVPC focused their time on outreach and facilitation to secure a non-driver’s license photo ID, which is provided for free by the state, their objections would be moot.”

Simmons said using a utility bill or bank statement is a weak form of identification to vote.

“Back in the day when I turned 18, my older brother was still living in our household. He had a bank statement because he did some transactions,” said Simmons. “I could have very easily just taken his bank statement, gone to the election authority and voted under his name. If they didn’t know who my brother was or me in an election authority on a voting day, how would they prove that I was not who I said I was?”

Simmons said he is not a fan of the provision that also allows absentee voting without an excuse.

“As you know, the art of legislation is the art of compromise,” he said. “I think Election Day should be Election Day. I understand that people have circumstances where they’re going to be out of town for traveling but we already have legitimate excuses while you can’t be there on Election Day.”

The bill is scheduled to become law on August 28, so Lieberman said the lawsuit will be filed before then.

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