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League Challenges HB1878

Click here to watch a Sept. 1 webinar with attorney Denise Lieberman explaining how to comply with the new law while it’s being challenged in court.

The League of Women Voters of Missouri (LWVMO) is a plaintiff in two lawsuits challenging provisions of an anti-voter bill (HB1878) that took effect on Aug. 28. The League says the new law violates their staff and volunteers’ right to core political speech and disenfranchises thousands of Missouri citizens who do not have a non-expired government-issued photo ID. Click here for a fact sheet on the new law.

 “We are proud of our members’ essential voter registration and education work across the state,” said LWVMO President Marilyn McLeod. “This law criminalizes work we do regularly and, ultimately, harms Missouri voters who rely on the League’s work to ensure their voices are heard at the ballot box.”

McLeod says the new law’s strict ID requirement will force many students, seniors, non-drivers, and people with disabilities to use a provisional ballot that won’t count without a signature match.

HB1878 requires citizens to show a non-expired state-issued photo ID, U.S. passport or military ID to vote, which State records from 2017 showed that more than 275,000 registered voters in Missouri did not have. Voters in past elections, including the August primary, were able to use several other forms of identification, including a voter ID card issued by an election authority, student ID, or recently-expired driver’s license or state ID. The League won previous lawsuits challenging strict photo ID requirements as a violation of the Missouri Constitution.

McLeod stressed that the statute is vaguely worded and does not define what it means to “solicit” voter registration or an absentee ballot application. Failing to comply with these strict and confusing prohibitions would be a Class 3 election offense. “The League has worked since 1919 to educate and empower voters, but now League members are worried that they could permanently lose the right to vote just for helping youth or new citizens register to vote, something that many of them have done for decades.”

The Missouri State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (MO NAACP) joins the League in both suits. They are represented in the lawsuits by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Missouri and the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition. The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) is also helping with the free speech case. Plaintiffs in the photo ID case include three individuals who could not vote a regular ballot in future elections.

Learn about new voter ID rules, restrictions on voter registration, absentee ballots

A new strict photo ID requirement will disenfranchise many students, seniors, non-drivers, and people with disabilities. HB1878 requires voters to show a non-expired government-issued photo ID to vote. Previously, acceptable ID to vote included a voter ID card, student ID, recent utility bill, or driver’s license that had recently expired.

“The League believes the state should be making it easier, not harder, for Missourians to exercise their fundamental right to vote,” LWVMO President Marilyn McLeod said in a release announcing a lawsuit filed by LWVMO and the NAACP. “Many voters used other forms of ID to vote on August 2 and have no idea that the ID rules are tightening for the November 8 election. There’s no evidence of voter impersonation in Missouri, so these extreme restrictions don’t make our elections any safer or more secure.” 

Voters should check the expiration date on their driver’s license.

Voters without the required ID can cast a provisional ballot, but it won’t count without a signature match. For more information, go to https://www.sos.mo.gov/elections.

The League and Sierra Club held a webinar on the changes at 7 pm on Sept. 1. Click here to watch the video.

On Sept. 7, League members from across the state visited the the Secretary of State’s office in Jefferson City to deliver dozens of forms that are now required to register as “voter solicitors.”

“This harsh and confusing new law punishes those who want to make our democracy stronger,” McLeod said. “If found guilty of helping a dozen people to register to vote or handing out blank absentee ballot request forms, a member of the League of Women Voters could be denied the right to vote for the rest of her life.”

League Supports Reproductive Rights

The U.S. House recently passed two bills to protect the right to access reproductive health care. Passage is unlikely in the U.S. Senate this year.

The Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) would protect the right to access abortion nationwide by providing a federal safeguard against abortion bans and restrictions.

The Ensuring Women’s Right to Reproductive Freedom Act would reaffirm the right to travel out-of-state to seek abortion care and to help those who do.

LWVUS Convention Approves Expanded Making Democracy Work Campaign

Missouri sent 17 delegates to Denver, with another dozen virtual delegates and two observers.

The League of Women Voters added direct election of the president to its Making Democracy Work campaign at the 2022 National Convention in Denver. Delegates to the hybrid convention also narrowly approved a structural transformation proposal to move to a unified dues system and eliminate annual Per Member Payments (PMP) by 2024.

Governor Signs Congressional District Map

The Missouri Senate gave final approval to a new congressional district map before adjourning on May 13. Experts say it will likely keep a 6-2 partisan split in the Missouri delegation. The League is concerned that it splits 10 counties and the 3rd District is not compact. Click here to see the new lines.

The Missouri House approved a “least change” map for congressional districts on Jan. 19. A few Republicans had blocked action in the Senate, promoting a 7-1 partisan gerrymander and refusing to go to conference. The House proposed this revised map the final week of session. The Governor signed it with little time to spare before election authorities need to get information to voters in the military.

The League shared research with legislators showing that 46.5 percent of Missouri voters supported Democrats in recent elections for Governor, U.S. Senate and President.

Legislature Approves Anti-Voter Bill, Adjourns Without Changing Citizen Initiative Petition Process

League members from across the state joined more than 100 voting rights advocates in Jefferson City on May 3. LWVMO President Marilyn McLeod credited a strong grassroots effort for the legislature’s failure to pass HJR79 to limit citizen initiative petitions.

“The initiative petition process is a sacred and trusted right of the citizens of Missouri,” McLeod had testified. “Only 28 of 69 citizen-initiated Constitutional amendments have ever been approved. Many more proposed initiatives never got enough signatures to make it on the ballot.”

The General Assembly did give final approval to HB1878, an anti-voter bill that the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition says places “unnecessary, unconstitutional, and burdensome voting restrictions that undermine Missourians’ right to vote and undermine free and fair elections in Missouri.”

“Limiting the right to vote for some citizens is a limit to the right to vote for all citizens,” says McLeod. In a letter to Governor Parson, she stressed the League’s concern about language that could limit its voter service activities. “This legislation provides unnecessary roadblocks to our most basic right, the right to vote,” she wrote. “Among its many provisions, it requires an extremely limited form of ID to be able to vote which will disenfranchise thousands of citizens who are fully qualified to vote, including voters whose driver’s license recently expired.

“New provisions in HB1878 would allow unnecessary voter purges, make it more difficult for people with disabilities to vote independently, and prevent local election authorities from receiving grant funds to improve their outreach to the citizenry.

“As we understand it, this bill eliminates the requirement for the Secretary of State to inform the people of the change in requirements to be able to vote. Since the right to vote is the basis of all our rights, then properly informing the citizens could not be more critical.” 

Which way is the wind blowing?

More than 75 LWVMO members participated in a hybrid Spring Conference on April 30 at the Schweitzer Brentwood Library in Springfield.

Thanks to the wonderful speakers on public school issues, ranked choice voting, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Dr. Grenita Lathan, Superintendent of Springfield Public Schools and Dr. Denise Fredrick, SPS Board Member and retired educator; Dr. Caitlin Davies, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Missouri State University; and Jerry Williams, O’Reilly Automotive DEI Professional, with Krista Moncado from the Ozark Community Foundation. We also appreciate the wonderful hospitality provided by members of LWV of Southwest Missouri.

Congratulations to the winners of the Rachel Farr Fitch Health Care Award: Legal Services of Easter Missouri Attorney Joel Ferber and CoxHealth CEO Steve Edwards.

Marilyn McLeod, Anissa Barber, Jill Smull and Julie Steiger with Fitch award winner Steve Edwards.
Catherine Stenger, Angie Dunlap, Dan Glazier, Joel Ferber, Mary Anne Banks, Amanda Schneider, Nancy Price and Nancy Thompson.

League Cosponsors Jan. 6 Vigils

Signs were printed using grant funds from the LWVUS Education Fund.

On Thursday, Jan. 6, League members joined hundreds of other voting rights advocates in Missouri to mark last January’s attack on democracy.

“The insurrection last Jan. 6 was a clear attack on our democracy. We need the federal election reforms in the Freedom to Vote Act to protect the right of all eligible citizens to vote and have their vote count,” says LWVMO President Marilyn McLeod. “In 2021, 19 states passed legislation making it more difficult to vote. As Missouri legislators return to work in Jefferson City this week, we want them to recognize that most voters and election officials liked the safe voting options they approved in 2020 and are against making it harder for citizens to vote or to put an initiative on the ballot.”

League Stresses Fair Maps at Hearings

Redistricting has a major impact on many aspects of our lives: education, healthcare, the environment and, most importantly, the voices of the people. New House and Senate district maps will shape our lives and our communities for the next 10 years.

Several League members testified at eight of the nine redistricting commission hearings, asking for transparency in the process of drawing new House and Senate district maps. Click here or on the People Powered Maps image at right to see the list of commissioners. 

McLeod explained the redistricting process on the “Radio Friends with Paul Pepper” program. Watch the video at https://youtu.be/z0958wB6NNA. Click here for LWVMO’s position or here for an explanation of the difference between redistricting and gerrymandering from the ACLU.

LWVUS President Keynotes 65th State Convention

LWVMO held its 65th annual convention on Saturday, May 15, on Zoom. The convention speaker was Dr. Deborah Turner, President of LWVUS. In inspirational remarks, she stressed that the League’s non-partisanship is the bedrock of the organization. “Wanting every eligible voter to have equal access to the ballot box is not partisan. Wanting a robust democracy in which everyone has an equal voice and equal representation is not partisan. Wanting to see more elected officials that reflect the diverse makeup of our country is not partisan – it is American.”

“I know that you have not been deterred in your efforts to create a more perfect democracy in Missouri,” Turner said. “You fought hard to protect clean elections and fair maps in your state, and although you did not get the result you wanted with Amendment 3 in the last election, I have every confidence in your ability to keep up the good fight. At national, we are here to partner with you to continue moving the dial on fair maps, voting rights, social justice, and democracy.”

Dr. Turner stressed the continued mission of empowering voters and defending democracy. She commended the Missouri League for registering and educating thousands of voters in 2020. Click here to watch her keynote address to the convention.

The convention elected Marilyn McLeod from Columbia as President. Other new officers are Louise Wilkerson from Metro St. Louis as Vice President, Kathleen Boswell from Sedalia as Secretary, and Diane Suhler from Columbia as Treasurer. Joining the board are Joan Hubbard, Anne Sappington, and Catherine Stenger from Metro St. Louis and Jill Smull and Julie Steiger from Southwest Missouri.