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Missouri's new photo-ID law will soon face multiple legal challenges

Missouri NAACP President Nimrod Chapel Jr. stands at a podium to speak against Missouri's new election bill that contains a photo-ID requirement. Chapel Jr. is located in a hotel conference room and is surrounded by a group of people.
Sarah Kellogg
St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri NAACP President Nimrod Chapel Jr. speaks Friday in Jefferson City against Missouri's new election bill that contains a voter photo-ID requirement.

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 said they intend to fight the law through not only litigation, but also by still getting out the vote despite the changes the groups 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.

Denise Lieberman, director and general counsel of the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, said the lawsuits will be filed next week. She said 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 said 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 pursuing the litigation, the Rev. Darryl Gray, executive director of Missouri Faith Voices, said the groups intend to continue working on voter 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 said 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, Gray said the groups stated their positions to 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, make voting in Missouri more secure than before, such as prohibiting 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 enacted in a long time.

Besides the photo-ID assistant sites, the coalition said it will continue to register people to vote, increase voter participation and distribute a toolkit designed to help faith leaders to accomplish these tasks.

Follow Sarah Kellogg on Twitter: @sarahkkellogg

Sarah Kellogg is a Missouri Statehouse and Politics Reporter for St. Louis Public Radio and other public radio stations across the state.