Missouri High Court Strikes Down Key Part of Voter ID Law

(CN) – Missouri’s Republican attorney general is considering his next move after the state’s high court struck down part of a voter ID law that requires those without a government-issued photo ID to sign an affidavit in order to vote.

“We’re reviewing the court’s decision and deciding what the next possible steps are,” a spokesperson for Attorney General Eric Schmitt said Wednesday, after the court issued its 5-2 ruling the day before.

(AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)

Missouri’s voter ID law was passed by a Republican supermajority in the Legislature and ratified by constitutional amendment in 2016, with 63% of voters in favor.

The law requires voters to present a valid government-issued photo ID in order to cast a ballot, and allows those without government-issued IDs to cast a ballot if they present another form of ID – a utility bill, bank statement or paycheck – and sign a sworn affidavit acknowledging that they did not have a “form of personal identification approved for voting.”

A circuit court judge declared the affidavit requirement unconstitutional in a challenge brought by the progressive policy non-profit Priorities USA.

The Missouri Supreme Court agreed Tuesday, finding the affidavit requirement “misleading, contradictory, and unconstitutional.”

While the state has a compelling interest in combating voter fraud, the language of the affidavit requirement essentially asks voters to perjure themselves by swearing that they do not possess a form of personal identification approved for voting, when they have valid non-photo identification, the 21-page opinion states.

“The language of subsection 2, which provides that individuals signing the affidavit must acknowledge they are ‘required to present a form of personal identification, as described in subsection 1 of this section, in order to vote,’ is inaccurate,” Judge Mary Russell said, writing for the majority. “An individual voting under option two is required to sign an ambiguous, contradictory statement under oath and subject to the penalty of perjury.”

Russell said that the lower court reasonably entered an injunction prohibiting the state from requiring voters to sign the affidavit because once all the misleading language is removed, there is essentially nothing left for the voter to swear to.

Chief Justice George Draper III and Judges Paul Wilson, Patricia Breckenridge and Laura Denvir Stith joined Russell in the majority.

In his dissent, Judge Brent Powell agreed that the affidavit’s language was unconstitutional, but said that severing the affidavit requirement was not enough. He argued that the entire non-photo ID option for voters should also be enjoined.

“A more appropriate remedy to the constitutional issue identified in the principal opinion would be to sever the entirety of section 115.427.2, disallowing the use of non-photo identification and leaving voters with two options: photo identification or a provisional ballot,” Powell said.

His dissent was joined by Judge Zel Fischer.

Priorities USA did not respond to a request for comment.

%d bloggers like this: