Judge halts provisions of new Missouri voting law

A judge has issued a preliminary injunction halting parts of a new Missouri law that puts limits on what can be done to help register voters and reach out to absentee voters.

Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem sided with the League of Women Voters of Missouri and the state chapter of the NAACP in blocking parts of a law adopted by Missouri’s Republican-led Legislature and signed into law by GOP Gov. Mike Parson.

The court order was dated Oct. 24 and publicized Friday.

Missouri voters on Tuesday will decide a U.S. Senate race that features Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine, eight congressional races, and a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana, among many other races and ballot measures.

The voter law was enacted after some Republicans raised concerns about election integrity following former President Donald Trump’s false claims that he won the 2020 presidential election. Opponents say the law seeks to reduce the number of Democrats who can vote.

The new law bans paid solicitation of voter registration applications. It requires registration with the state by anyone seeking to sign up more than 10 voters. It requires volunteer solicitors to be Missouri voters. And, it prohibits solicitations aimed at convincing a voter to obtain an absentee ballot application.

Beetem said those provisions unconstitutionally limit free speech.

“The chilling effect of the Challenged Provisions threatens to cause increased voter confusion and decreased voter participation,” Beetem wrote. “The public interest weighs in favor of granting injunctive relief.”

Missouri NAACP President Nimrod Chapel called the voter bill “the latest in a long line of Jim Crow legislation” aimed at disenfranchising people.

A statement from Republican Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office noted that the injunction “only temporarily prohibits the enforcement of certain provisions” of the law, House Bill 1878.

“We look forward to vigorously defending these aspects of HB1878 at trial,” the statement read.

Last month, Beetem dismissed another lawsuit challenging a new requirement that voters show a government-issued photo ID at the polls. That lawsuit was filed on behalf of two women, but Beetem wrote that neither “alleged a specific, concrete, non-speculative injury or legally protectable interest in challenging the photo ID requirement.”

That ruling was appealed, but voters will be required to show a photo ID on Tuesday.

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This story has been updated to correct that the preliminary injunction was dated Oct. 24 and publicized Friday.

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