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Arguments wrap up in Missouri’s voter photo ID lawsuit

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Proponents of Missouri’s voter photo ID law contend it has not restricted voting, while opponents argue it keeps people from the polls.

The two sides made their final arguments Monday in a lawsuit seeking to toss out the ID law.

The law allows someone without a photo ID to vote, but only if they sign an affidavit under penalty of perjury.

They also have the option of casting a provisional ballot, which would only be counted if they provide photo identification within two weeks following an election.

“The additional requirements imposed on voters in Missouri, the burdens imposed on those who lack ID, and the confusion among poll workers and voters is unconstitutional and entirely unnecessary,” said plaintiffs attorney Uzoma Nkwonta, who is representing Priorities USA and Lee’s Summit resident Mildred Gutierrez.

“They’ve imposed barriers to franchise to those who are least likely to be able to overcome them and whose voices are least likely to be heard.”

He also argued that a provisional ballot is a poor substitute for a regular one.

Attorney Ryan Bangert, arguing for the state, defended the photo ID law before Cole County Judge Richard Callahan.

“We haven’t had any evidence of mass disenfranchisement, or people refusing to vote, because of the affidavit,” Bangert said.

He specifically defended the option of voters without photo ID’s using provisional ballots.

“That actually provides much broader access to the franchise than existed before,” he said. “It’s a catch-all at the bottom of this process that’s allowing these voters to come in and vote.”

Callahan told both legal teams that he won’t likely issue a ruling until early next week.

He did express concerns about the wording of the affidavit that voters without a photo ID are required to sign if they want to cast a regular ballot. Those doing so also have to present a secondary form of identification, such as a utility bill or paycheck stub.

“On its face it’s requiring voters to say ‘I don’t have any identification,’ when in fact they have to present identification,” Callahan said. “For the average person, when they look at that affidavit, and with all the warnings that you’re subject to being in prison and under penalty of perjury, the affidavit, on its face, is inaccurate.”

A similar photo ID requirement became law in 2006, but was struck down by the Missouri Supreme Court.

Follow Marshall on Twitter:@MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.