Civil rights groups are suing Missouri to block the state from requiring voters to show identification when they go to the polls in an upcoming election.
In a lawsuit filed Thursday on behalf of the Missouri NAACP and the League of Women Voters of Missouri, the Advancement Project and the American Civil Liberties Union argue that Missouri is not adequately prepared to implement the new photo ID requirement, which went into effect on June 1, for a July special election in St. Louis. Early voting in the election begins on Monday.
Voters in Missouri approved a ballot measure to require photo identification at the polls last year, but the state is also required to help provide free identification for voting purposes to anyone who needs it. Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft (R) admitted earlier in June that his office wouldn’t be able to assist everyone who needed identification in time for the St. Louis special election.
The lawsuit says the law’s identification requirement should be delayed until Missouri can provide the free IDs to those who need them.
The Missouri law does allow people who show up to the polls to vote on a provisional ballot. Votes on provisional ballots are counted if the voter can return during polling hours to prove their identity or until election officials can verify the signature on the ballot with what they have on file.
The plaintiffs also said the law should be temporarily blocked because it hasn’t been sufficiently funded. A provision in the law says “if there is not a sufficient appropriation of state funds,” then the photo ID requirement “shall not be enforced.” The suit notes that while Missouri set aside $100,000 to help people obtain identification, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) has yet to approve the the $1.5 million the state legislature allocated for the law.
“This suppressive effect is magnified once the state fails to hold its end of the bargain. It is beyond unacceptable that the state of Missouri has launched a photo ID requirement while not sufficiently preparing, educating voters, or funding it. As a result, the burden is now falling on the backs of voters,” Denise Lieberman, a senior attorney in the voter protection program at the Advancement Project, said in a statement.
Maura Browning, an Ashcroft spokeswoman, said the secretary of state had no comment on the lawsuit.
Missouri officials have disagreed over how much money is needed to sufficiently fund the law. After it was passed, former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander (D) estimated it would cost $5.2 million to implement, but Ashcroft requested just $1.4 million for it. Greitens requested only $300,000. Advocates say that underfunding the law would be disastrous and only lead to confusion about who is eligible to vote.
“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,” Sophia Lakin, an attorney with the ACLU’s voting rights project, said in a statement.