Appeals judges OK lawsuit on Missouri voter photo ID funding

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Appeals court judges on Tuesday said a lawsuit can move forward that alleges Missouri lawmakers didn’t spend enough money on implementation of a new voter photo identification law and it consequently should not be enforced.

The decision by the Western District Court of Appeals panel reversed a circuit court judge’s January ruling to dismiss the case , meaning the legal challenge can continue.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Advancement Project, Missouri NAACP and League of Women Voters filed the lawsuit last year, alleging that state lawmakers didn’t budget enough money for the state to properly educate voters on the changes, provide free IDs and birth certificates, and train poll workers.

As a result, the groups argued that the heart of the law should not be carried out.

That’s because the law states that “if there is not a sufficient appropriation of state funds, then the personal identification requirements” shall not be enforced.

The law had required voters to present a valid photo ID, or to sign a sworn statement and present another form of identification in order to cast a regular ballot. But another recent court ruling blocked the state from requiring voters without proper photo ID to sign an affidavit, which took the teeth out of the law.

This lawsuit would further chip away at it.

“The state of Missouri failed to allocate enough funds to notify voters about the voter ID change,” Denise Lieberman, co-program director of Advancement Project’s Power & Democracy program, said in a statement. “This ruling shows Missouri voters that their rights matter in the eyes of the appellate court. By seeing this case go to trial, the court recognizes it has a role in stopping voter suppression. We look forward to our day in court.”

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley’s spokeswoman Mary Compton said in a statement that the office is “reviewing the ruling and considering next steps.”

Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, who supports voter photo ID, slammed the legal challenge to the law.

“It’s unfortunate that these same organizations continue to desperately challenge a law already held as constitutional, and continue to force taxpayers to spend state resources refuting these challenges,” Ashcroft said in a statement.