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State asks Supreme Court to block voter ID ruling

State asks Supreme Court to block voter ID ruling

October 12th, 2018 by Bob Watson in Local News

Judge Richard Callahan asks a question as attorneys representing their respective sides in the case of Missouri's voter photo ID law present arguments Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, in a Cole County courtroom.

Photo by Julie Smith /News Tribune.

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and Attorney General Josh Hawley want the Missouri Supreme Court to overturn this week's ruling by Cole County Senior Judge Richard Callahan, in a challenge to Missouri's new voter ID law.

The state's lawyers asked the high court Thursday to stay the immediate effectiveness of Callahan's order, which said the state can't require voters who are "otherwise qualified to cast a regular ballot" to sign an affidavit — if they don't have one of the photo IDs lawmakers included in the new law, which went into effect July 1, 2017.

"Even if this Court were to conclude that the Statement as currently written infringes on Missourians' right to vote," attorneys Frank Jung and D. John Sauer told the Supreme Court in a 27-page brief, "the lower court's injunction is problematic. The court had no authority to enter a sweeping injunction invalidating the affidavit as to every voter and polling place in the State."

But they'll have to wait until at least next week to see if the court grants their request, because the Supreme Court gave the plaintiffs in the case until 5 p.m. Tuesday to comment on the state's motion for a stay.

The new law went into effect after voters, by a 63 percent margin in November 2016, added an amendment to the Missouri Constitution allowing lawmakers to create requirements for voters to identify themselves when voting at their polling place, including using photo IDs.

The lawsuit challenging the new law was filed by a Washington, D.C.-based group, Priorities USA, on behalf of Holts Summit native Mildred Gutierrez, 70, who now lives in Lee's Summit, and other plaintiffs.

The lawsuit said the amendment didn't change the effect of previous constitutional language that people who are registered properly "are entitled to vote," and the new law enacted under the amendment's authority created problems for people trying to vote.

In their motion for a stay, Jung and Sauer said Callahan's six-page ruling Monday "improperly enjoins the enforcement of various aspects of Missouri's voter-identification law. Of particular concern, the court invalidated a sworn-statement provision that is integral to one of three options for voting under the law."

Callahan's ruling listed the three options voters have under the new law, including:

Presenting one of several forms of government-issued identification cards listed in the law, that include a photograph of the person named on the ID.

Showing other kinds of identification that show the person's name and address, "coupled with the requirement that the individual sign an affidavit, under pain of perjury, that they are the person on the identification, and the resident voter."

Using a provisional ballot, including a sworn statement "that the individual is the registered voter but otherwise allows the person to vote without presenting any form of identification."

Jung and Sauer acknowledged Callahan's ruling said 95 percent of Missouri's likely voters already have the proper ID.

"For the vast majority of Missouri citizens," Callahan wrote, "the photo identification requirement under Option One poses no burden whatsoever."

But, he ruled, Missouri's sworn statement went too far, requiring the voter to say he or she didn't "possess a form of identification approved for voting," because they didn't show a photo ID — even though many voters had one or more of the alternate kinds of ID allowed by the law.

The requirement that a voter sign an affidavit when they don't have the right photo ID "impermissibly infringes on a citizen's right to vote as guaranteed under the Missouri Constitution," Callahan wrote.

Still, he ruled, except for the sworn statement, "The voting scheme adopted by the General Assembly in House Bill 1631 is within its constitutional prerogative under the Missouri Constitution."

Callahan's ruling cited a 2006 Missouri Supreme Court ruling — in the last Missouri case involving a photo ID requirement — that the state had a right to ask voters to sign a statement, because "the state has a legitimate interest in preserving the integrity of the election process."

The motion for a stay said Callahan "did not find that Missouri's voter ID law suppressed turnout or caused disenfranchisement."

Jung and Sauer argued the Supreme Court should leave the current statement in effect, arguing the state likely will win its appeal and changing the requirements now could cause more confusion at the polls Nov. 6.