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Critics say Missouri's new photo ID law will 'starve voter registration' — they plan to sue

 Missouri NAACP President Nimrod Chapel Jr. speaks against Missouri's new election bill that contains a photo-ID requirement on August 19, 2022.
Sarah Kellogg
St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri NAACP President Nimrod Chapel Jr. speaks against Missouri's new election bill that contains a photo-ID requirement on August 19, 2022.

The sweeping elections bill not only contains the requirement of a government issued photo-ID to vote, it also adds restrictions to election processes like voter registration. Those against the bill say it violated Missouri’s constitutional right to vote.

Missouri’s sweeping elections law will soon face two lawsuits challenging its constitutionality.

The law, like many passed by the legislature this year and signed into law by Gov. Mike Parson, is set to go into effect on Aug. 28.

Meeting during several days in Jefferson City, a collaboration including Missouri Faith Voices, the NAACP and labor leaders say they intend to fight the law through not only litigation, but also by still getting out the vote despite the changes they said will make it more difficult to cast a ballot.

“The reality is that hundreds of thousands of Missourians will be left without the ability to participate in the democracy that they pay into in the form of their taxes, in the state that they live in communities where we grow our children, where we go to work and where we pray,” said Nimrod Chapel Jr., president of the Missouri NAACP.

According to Denise Lieberman, director and general counsel of the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, the lawsuits will be filed next week. She says they will also be seeking an expedited review and a preliminary injunction to stop the law from going into effect while the case is underway.

One of the lawsuits will be against the portion of the law requiring a government-issued photo-ID to vote. The other will be against measures included within the law concerning voter registration and other engagement processes, such as making it illegal to be paid for registering people to vote.

“This measure will effectively silence and starve voter registration activity in the state of Missouri by organizations who work with communities who are already marginalized,” Lieberman said.

Lieberman says the law’s broad scope warrants multiple lawsuits.

“We are bringing these cases both on behalf of voters who stand to be impacted and harmed by the photo-ID provisions as well as the civic engagement organizations that stand to have those activities criminalized,” Lieberman said.

In addition to the litigation, the Rev. Darryl Gray, executive director of Missouri Faith Voices, said in the meantime, they intend to continue voting engagement. That includes the establishment of more photo-ID assistant sites.

“Our job is to basically get the people in these places so that the Voter Protection Coalition and other organizations can help to get those documents,” Gray said.

Gray says they did receive a commitment from Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft to provide members of his staff to go to these assistant sites to help with that process as well as providing financial assistance for people to get the documents they need.

Despite those commitments and meeting with them, Gray said they made their positions clear with Ashcroft.

“We made it very clear to him that we disagree with him. We're glad he came, but we still disagree,” Gray said.

Ashcroft has joined fellow Republicans in repeatedly speaking in support of the law. Many of the additions to the bill, Ashcroft said, makes voting in Missouri more secure than before, such as banning private dollars from going to election authorities and giving Ashcroft’s office the authority to audit voter rolls to ensure their accuracy.

At the time of his signing of the law, Parson said it was probably one of the most important pieces of legislation the state has passed in a long time.

Besides the photo-ID assistant sites, the coalition said they will also continue to register people to vote, increase voter participation within their communities and congregations and distribute a toolkit they created to help faith leaders to accomplish these tasks.

Follow Sarah Kellogg on Twitter @sarahkkellogg

Copyright 2022 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Sarah Kellogg is St. Louis Public Radio’s Statehouse and Politics Reporter, taking on the position in August 2021. Sarah is from the St. Louis area and even served as a newsroom intern for St. Louis Public Radio back in 2015.
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