Missouri Voting Rights Groups Push Back Against New Voter ID Law

The law also repeals the use of mail-in ballots, bans electronic voting machines and drop boxes

click to enlarge Allisa Simril shows her 8-year-old son, Jonathan Trotter, how to fill in a ballot while voting at the University City recreational complex on April 5. - Monica Obradovic
Monica Obradovic
Allisa Simril shows her 8-year-old son, Jonathan Trotter, how to fill in a ballot while voting at the University City recreational complex on April 5.

Governor Mike Parson signed a bill yesterday that requires all voters to provide a government-issued photo ID at the ballot box along with a list of other stipulations, and voting rights groups are pushing back.

HB 1878 is set to go into effect August 28, meaning the measure will not be in place until after the August 2 primary election.

Denise Lieberman, director and general counsel of the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, said in a statement that the group is disappointed by the new law and is considering legal action against some of the bill’s provisions.

Under HB 1878, individuals must show a government-issued ID when voting or cast a provisional ballot. Previously, voters could show a variety of forms of ID.

The new photo ID requirement is just one part of the bill. It repeals the use of mail-in ballots — a method popularized in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic — but allows certain absentee ballots and prohibits drop boxes for absentee ballots. It makes the paper ballot the official method of voting, banning electronic vote-counting machines after January 1, 2024, and bans the machines from being connected to the internet. It also increased the period to submit a vote via absentee ballot with no excuse to two weeks.

It also gives power to the Missouri Secretary of State to conduct audits of voter rolls and remove ineligible voters. (Local election officials already canvass voters after elections, so they can remove voters who are inactive or didn't respond to mailers about updating their voter registration, the Kansas City Beacon reports.) In addition to the new rules regarding elections, the bill also does away with the presidential primary in Missouri, meaning voters will no longer cast a ballot on their party's candidate for the president of the United States.

“HB 1878 is breathtaking in the ways it undermines our elections,” Lieberman says in her statement, continuing that the new law hampers “voter registration drives, making it illegal to help people get absentee ballot applications, enshrining an unconstitutional strict photo ID provision, allowing the Secretary of State to order voters removed from the rolls at his discretion, allowing partisan lawmakers to be part of challenges to voting laws, opening the door to sham audits and more.”

Lieberman is joined by other activists in her promise to fight — Reverend Darryl Gray, the executive director of Missouri Faith Voices, says they will meet this “threat in the courts, the ballot box and the streets if necessary.”

“This blatant attack on black Missourians is an attack against our basic rights and freedom,” Gray says. “Black people and our allies will not sit idle while our basic human rights are threatened.”

Marilyn McLeod, president of the League of Women Voters in Metro St. Louis adds that the legislation adds “unnecessary roadblocks to our most basic right.”

Voting rights activists have challenged a similar bill that required photo ID at the polls in 2017, and the Missouri Supreme Court sided with the group. A previous 2016 law had allowed three methods of voting: Show a photo ID, show a similar method of identification such as a utility bill and sign an affidavit, or cast a provisional ballot and return with a photo ID. In 2020, the court struck down the law due to the sworn statement portion being “misleading” and “contradictory.”