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MO courts strike down Voter ID efforts

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Posted: Friday, March 30, 2012 8:00 am

Civil rights leaders applauded a Missouri court ruling that struck down the ballot summary for a proposed amendment to the Missouri Constitution that would require voters to show state-issued identification.

That measure would have appeared on the November 6th general election ballot.

“This is a victory for voting rights and it affirms the most fundamental constitutional guarantee for every citizen in Missouri,” said U.S. Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (D). 

Missouri lawmakers developed the ballot summary when they approved the measure. But Cole County Circuit Judge Pat Joyce struck down the ballot summary and concluded that it is insufficient and unfair. In a ruling signed earlier this week, Joyce left it to the Legislature to revise.

Last year, the Republican-led Legislature passed a proposed constitutional amendment. It sought to clear the way for separate legislation requiring a photo ID to vote and to allow an early voting period.

The proposed amendment sought to get around a 2006 Missouri Supreme Court ruling that declared a previous photo ID law unconstitutional.

“Today’s ruling blocks a blatant attempt to disenfranchise seniors, students, the disabled, minorities and the rural poor,” Clay said. 

Clay argued earlier this month at a Voting Rights Symposium at Harris-Stowe State University that the misleading ballot language was designed to confuse Missouri voters into approving an amendment that could have disenfranchised up to 350,000 registered voters. 

Rev. Al Sharpton and many other regional and national leaders spoke at the March 16 symposium.

“Many of us don’t respond to civil rights unless it is bloody,” Sharpton said. “When we talk about things like this, it is hard to energize us because we do not understand the complexity of the issue. First thing we need to understand is they purposely make it complex because they depend on the complexity to bring down the energy level of resistance.”

On March 12, the Justice Department rejected Texas’ new voter ID law, saying it could disproportionately harm Latinos under the federal Voting Rights Act. The same day, a judge blocked a similar law in Wisconsin. The Justice Department also halted another in South Carolina in December. Civil rights advocates –  including the ACLU, NAACP and the Advancement Project – have worked tirelessly to challenge the laws. The justice department cited information that these advocates provided in their decision, said Denise Lieberman, senior attorney of the Advancement Project, who was also on a panel.

“I want to commend the broad coalition of citizen groups and non-profit organizations who stood with me to defend the right to vote,” Clay said.


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