Judge dismisses lawsuit over Missouri’s new voter ID law

A judge has dismissed the lawsuit challenging a Missouri law that requires voters to show a government-issued ID at the polls.

Cole County Judge Jon Beetem’s order on Wednesday means that voters without a photo ID will have to file a provisional ballot in the November election. The provisional ballot will only be counted if the voter returns later that day with a photo ID or if election officials verify their signatures.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two women, but Beetem wrote that neither “has alleged a specific, concrete, non-speculative injury or legally protectable interest in challenging the photo ID requirement.”

Officials with the groups that challenged the voter ID law on behalf of the women called the ruling “procedural” and said it doesn’t address the merits of their argument. They said the case will end up before the Missouri Supreme Court, which they said has twice previously struck down less-restrictive requirements.

“Missouri’s Constitution provides all Missourians with the fundamental right to vote,” a statement from the ACLU of Missouri and the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition said. “Voter ID restrictions disenfranchise Missourians, particularly people of color, people with disabilities, rural Missourians, voters with limited income, seniors and students.”

Before now, voters without a government-issued ID could use other means to prove their identities, such as utility bills.

“I applaud and agree with the court’s decision to dismiss this lawsuit since not even the plaintiffs could find a single individual who would be prevented from voting,” Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said in a news release. “Missouri elections will continue to be safe, secure, and accurate as we prepare for November.”

Among other things, Missouri voters on Nov. 8 will choose a new U.S. senator and will decide if recreational marijuana should be legalized.

Democrats across the nation have sought to expand voter access, while many Republicans have pursued new voting restrictions following former President Donald Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

Seventeen states besides Missouri had voter photo identification laws in effect as of this spring, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and 19 states had identification laws that accepted proof other than photos.

In a court hearing last month, Missouri Solicitor General John Sauer said the concern that some voters won’t be able to obtain proper identification in order to cast regular ballots amounts to “speculation at its finest.”

ACLU attorney Tony Rothert said the photo ID requirement puts unconstitutional burdens on the right to vote and serves no purpose. “There’s still no evidence of voter-impersonation fraud at the polls,” Rothert said.

Republican Missouri lawmakers passed the measure in May, and Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed it into law in June.

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