Judge clarifies voter ID ruling, forcing local election officials to comply with it

JEFFERSON CITY – (MISSOURINET) – A judge Tuesday instructed the Missouri Secretary of State to send a copy of his judgment striking down key portions of the state’s voter ID law to local election authorities.

Cole County Circuit Court Judge Richard Callahan issued his command as a portion of a newly amended order and judgment he originally handed down October 9th.  The move comes after the Missouri Supreme Court overruled the state’s emergency motion for a stay of Judge Callahan’s ruling Friday.

The original ruling eliminated a requirement for voters who don’t present a photo ID to sign an affidavit before casting a regular ballot.  Callahan’s updated order stipulates that neither the state nor local election officials can demand a voter to sign the document.

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft had previously interpreted Callahan’s decision as only applying to the state while local election authorities could still enforce the requirement.

Missouri House Democratic Minority Leader Gina Mitten of St. Louis issued a statement Tuesday after Callahan’s revised order, accusing Ashcroft of trying to sidestep the Judge’s decision.

“For two weeks, Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft continued to provide false information to Missouri voters about voter identification requirements in violation of a court order forbidding him from doing so,” said Mitten.  “Today, the judge in the case again told Ashcroft to stop deceiving Missouri voters.”

After the judge’s original order, Ashcroft had said it’s not clear if local poll workers were bound by the judge’s decision.  He added that many local election authorities had already trained poll workers to require voters to sign the affidavit.

In her statement, Mitten praised the judge’s latest order, saying it makes clear voters, “cannot be required to sign an affidavit to (cast a regular ballot), contrary to what Ashcroft has been saying during the two weeks since the judge declared the affidavit ‘contradictory and misleading’ and prohibited its enforcement.”

Ashcroft, a Republican, made the voter ID law a central theme of his 2016 election campaign.  GOP politicians have implemented photo voter ID law in various states, arguing they’re necessary to prevent voter fraud.

Democrats argue the statutes are intended to suppress the votes of students, minorities and the elderly who may be less supportive of Republicans.  Courts have struck down some of the photo voter ID laws while others remain in place.  The Missouri Supreme Court tossed a previous such law passed by the Legislature in 2006.

The attorney general’s office of Republican Josh Hawley filed the emergency stay request along with an appeal of Judge Callahan’s original ruling to the high bench on behalf of Ashcroft.  The Supreme Court has not responded to the state’s appeal.

Callahan’s updated judgment further prevents the state and local election officials from advertising or distributing information that photo ID’s are required to vote.

In his decision striking the affidavit signature requirement, Judge Callahan said the document, on its face, is contradictory and misleading.

The affidavit says the voter acknowledges that he or she doesn’t possess a photo ID and states that he or she is required to present approved photo ID in order to vote.  It also specifies that the person signing the document does so under penalty of perjury.

Callahan called the affidavit an “outright misstatement of law.”  He said the requirement for a voter to sign the document is a violation of a citizen’s right to vote that’s guaranteed under the Missouri Constitution.

His revised order ensures that local election officials are instructed to allow voters to cast regular ballots in November’s election if they present non-photo forms of ID such as voter registration card, utility bill, bank statement or college ID.

The court action reverts voter ID requirements to standards practiced before the legislature passed a law calling for the affidavit signature in 2016.

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