ACLU Files Lawsuit Challenging Missouri's Photo ID Voting Law

July 17, 2006 12:00 am

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Law Violates Missouri Constitution and Disenfranchises Thousands of Missouri Voters

KANSAS CITY, MO — Today the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri and the ACLU of Eastern Missouri filed a lawsuit in Cole County Circuit Court challenging a new law that requires Missouri’s voters to present state-issued photo identification cards at the polls in order to be eligible to vote.

“Our overall concern is that the new law will exclude people who want to vote, who deserve to vote, and are qualified to vote,” said Brett Shirk, Executive Director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri. “The Supreme Court has held that a state cannot value one person’s vote over another and, unfortunately, that is exactly what this law will do.”

According to ACLU officials, the voter identification law is unconstitutional because it will place unreasonable financial burdens on taxpayers. Because of the cost, thousands of Missouri voters will be unable to secure the extensive documentation needed to qualify for the newly required ID card.

Missouri Governor Matt Blunt signed the Photo ID bill into law June 14, 2006, over the objection of Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan. Carnahan’s office informed Blunt that it would be financially impossible to implement the proposed changes in time to preserve the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of Missouri voters. In a letter to the Governor, Carnahan asked Blunt to call a special session of the state legislature to allocate funds to ensure that voting rights were preserved. Governor Blunt refused Carnahan’s request and signed the law.

The ACLU’s lawsuit was filed against the State of Missouri and named as plaintiffsnames as plaintiffs Jackson County Missouri, Jackson County Executive Kathryn J. Shields, the City of St. Louis, Missouri, St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay, and St. Louis County Executive Charlie A. Dooley.

The lawsuit claims the Voter ID law violates the section of the Missouri Constitution known as the “Hancock Amendment,” which provides that “the state is prohibited from requiring any new or expanded activities by counties and other political subdivisions without full state financing.” The Amendment also provides that “a new activity or service … shall not be required by the General Assembly or any state agency of counties or other political subdivisions, unless a state appropriation is made and dispersed to pay the county or other political subdivision for any increased cost.”

The lawsuit states that Missouri’s Photo ID law will require Jackson County and the city of St. Louis to provide activities, services and expenditures of general revenue funds without providing the appropriations the Hancock Amendment requires.

“If the law is unenforceable in some counties, but not in others, the voter identification standards will be lower in those counties,” Shirk said. “This means that some citizens will be allowed to vote while other similarly situated citizens are forced to file provisional ballots that may not be counted. Many voters will not be allowed to vote at all.”

“This is not a partisan lawsuit,” Shirk added. “We are simply trying to preserve the voting rights of Missouri citizens. It is regrettable that a lawsuit had to be filed, but the right to vote is an essential ingredient to preserving a democratically elected government in our state.”

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