Author Archives: lwvcbc
Cole County Court Judge Jon Beetem has dismissed two lawsuits filed by the Missouri League of Women Voters and the Missouri Chapter of the NAACP which sought to expand absentee voting in 2020 and to challenge the state’s administration of the voter ID law.
“The League will continue our 100-year fight for the right to vote for all Missourians, which includes calling out the state when the law is not being administered correctly or voters are being misled,” said LWVMO President Evelyn Maddox. “Voters deserve to have the information and tools they need to safely cast a ballot.” “The ACLU and the Missouri Voters Protection Coalition have filed an appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court on the absentee voting litigation.
A ruling the Priorities USA case earlier this year said election authorities cannot require voters without a photo ID to sign an affidavit to have their vote count. On the last day of session, the legislature passed SB631 which specifies that voters who are ill or at high risk of contracting COVID-19 can cast an absentee ballot without a notary; and allows all other voters in Missouri to vote by mail, with a notary. The new statute doesn’t waive the notary requirement for healthy voters under age 65.
An attempt to tighten the state’s photo ID law was withdrawn from SB 631; therefore, several non-photo IDs remain acceptable to vote. The list includes a military or student ID, current utility bill or bank statement, voter notification card from the election authority, or other government document. Voters casting a ballot in person must present a valid form of ID to vote. Voters casting ballots by mail must submit a copy of their ID if they are voting for the first time since registering in the jurisdiction.
To protect the right to vote in 2020, the League of Women Voters of Missouri has joined the NAACP and several individual voters in filing a lawsuit in Cole County Friday that seeks a declaratory judgment that physical distancing and fear of contracting COVID-19 are valid reasons to request an absentee ballot in Missouri. The suit also seeks injunctive relief preventing local election officials from refusing such ballots or requiring them to be notarized.
“Missouri must expand and protect access to the ballot in these unprecedented times,” says LWVMO President Evelyn Maddox. “We want any Missouri voter who is social distancing in compliance with CDC guidelines to be able to request an absentee ballot in 2020 and return it without a notary seal.”
“Inconsistencies between voting jurisdictions violate the equal protection clause,” says Denise Lieberman, General Counsel for the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition. “Fear of contracting the coronavirus should be a valid reason to request an absentee ballot. Since election authorities can verify voter signatures, they should be told to accept all ballots without a notary seal this year. Absentee voting either by mail or in person will reduce the crowds at polling places and make them safer for other voters in 2020 elections.”
The state has a new electronic notary system, but the Secretary of State’s office indicates that it won’t work for absentee ballots. To read the League’s news release, click here. For more information or to support the ACLU legal team, click here.
LWVMO President Evelyn Maddox is calling on elected officials to release up to $20 million in federal funds to make elections more safe, secure and accessible. “We have a potential crisis on the horizon with the upcoming elections, and there are millions of dollars sitting unspent by the Secretary of State that could help local election authorities prepare.”
The deadline to request an absentee ballot for the June 2 municipal elections is May 20. While the Governor and Secretary of State have not issued any statewide guidance, several local election authorities have said voters can use the excuse that they expect to be confined due to illness or disability. That excuse doesn’t require a notary. A bill just approved by the Missouri House (SB552) allows more voters in August and November elections to request an absentee ballot but does not waive the notary requirement.
The Missouri Voter Protection Coalition (MOVPC) issued the following recommendations to comply with CDC guidelines.
Missouri is one of the few states that requires an excuse to request an absentee ballot and a notarized signature for the completed ballot. In recent letters to the editor, Maddox stressed that it’s time to make voting easier in Missouri.
The League of Women Voters was founded on Feb. 14, 1920. To celebrate that centennial, 300 local and state Leagues in all 50 states held activities to stress that “Women Power the Vote” in 2020.
“The nonpartisan League was founded to help American women exercise their hard-fought right to vote,” said LWVMO President Evelyn Maddox. “A hundred years after getting suffrage, women now outnumber men among registered voters. For the four elections in 2020, women will power the vote. Our founders fought to get the 19th Amendment passed 100 years ago, and we honor that long battle by educating and empowering all voters so that each can play a critical role in shaping our country.”
LWV of Missouri sent thousands of suffragist valentines to Missouri legislators, League members and friends of the League. LWVMO’s eight local Leagues held a variety of activities in addition to voter registration drives.
On Feb. 8, the Kansas City/Jackson/Clay/Platte Counties League hosted a presentation on activist women’s organizations by K. David Hanzlick, the author Benevolence, Moral Reform, Equality: Women’s Activism in Kansas City, 1870-1940.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas gave Sandy Eeds a proclamation recognizing LWV of Kansas City for 100 years of working to educate and inform voters. In turn, the League presented each council member a certificate of appreciation for running for office and serving the public.
LWV of Metro St. Louis volunteers delivered cookies to workers at several local election authorities on Valentine’s Day. The St. Louis League is also hosting Suffragist Cinema on March 8, showing the movie Iron Jawed Angels: Lead Follow or Get out of the Way.
LWV of Sedalia/Pettis County presented a history lesson of women’s suffrage since 1848 and the formation of the League. State Fair Community College teachers have agreed to give extra credit for students who attend and write about what they learned from the Feb. 11 event.
LWV of Columbia-Boone County hosted a program on February 11 called “Every Day in Every Way, How Local Elections Affect Your Daily Life.” Barbara Hoppe and Janet Thompson spoke about the impact of local elected officials are in our lives. The Columbia League sent a special valentine to elected officials to thank them for their service.
LWV of Southwest Missouri held several voter registration drives, including “Alamo Votes” at Alamo Drafthouse in Springfield that included education and a survey about voting motivation. An updated web site http://lwvswmo.org/ went live on Feb. 14.
The Missouri Supreme Court in January permanently struck down a portion of Missouri’s voter ID law. Election officials will not be allowed to require a photo ID to vote or represent in advertising and materials that a photo ID is required to vote.
In Priorities USA v. Missouri, the court agreed with the trial court’s conclusion that the affidavit portion of Missouri’s voter ID law was “misleading and contradictory” by inferring that a photo ID is required to vote when the law in fact allows voters to vote with non-photo ID. The court also acknowledged the fundamental nature of the right to vote under the Missouri Constitution, noting that the right to vote and right to equal protection under the Missouri constitution are “even more extensive than those provided by the federal constitution.”
While the injunction issued in October 2018 is now permanent, the House Committee on Elections had a hearing Jan. 22 on a bill to rewrite the affidavit and eliminate the option of using non-photo IDs. HB1600 would also drop the requirement that voters be notified in advance about changes in the law. The League expects a decision soon in its lawsuit on the Secretary of State’s implementation of the voter ID law.
Denise Lieberman of the Advancement Project testified against HB1600, calling it an attempt to reinstate a strict photo ID requirement. “It would require voters to show a non-expired state issued photo ID to vote or cast a provisional ballot that would only be counted if the voter returned with photo ID or if the voter’s signature on the provisional ballot envelope matches the signature on their voter registration.”
The Missouri House gave final approval to SJR38 on May 13 to ask voters to replace Clean Missouri’s redistricting reforms with a system that allows unprecedented racial and partisan gerrymandering.
Voters approved Clean Missouri in 2018 to ensure that neither political party gets an unfair advantage when district maps are drawn. Hidden in SJR38 is language that could make Missouri the only state not using total population to draw maps after the 2020 Census.
“This gerrymandering plan gives political parties more power and opens the door to a process that doesn’t count anyone under age 18 or non-citizens when drawing legislative district maps,” says LWVMO President Evelyn Maddox. “They deserve representation and services just as much as registered voters.”
In written testimony for a public hearing while the state was under a stay-at-home order, Maddox said, “These are unprecedented times, but please do not support this effort to allow unprecedented racial and partisan gerrymandering in Missouri. We want fair maps to protect Missouri voters and make sure each vote counts.”
LWVMO Secretary Louise Wilkerson said, “Instead of improving our redistricting process after the 2020 Census, SJR38 would give political parties more power and allow an unprecedented level of racial and political gerrymandering.”
The Missouri Senate approved SJR38 on Feb. 10. The proposed changes to the redistricting process will be on the November ballot unless Governor Mike Parson decides to put it on the August ballot. The measure would also eliminate lobbyist gifts that Clean Missouri capped to $5 and lowers the limit on contributes to Senate candidates by $100.
For more on the total population issue, see this May 22 guest column in the St. Louis Dispatch by Nancy J. Miller and Louise T. Wilkerson: Keep clean redistricting process that counts kids.
For more on protections for communities of color in Clean Missouri, see this guest column in the St. Louis American by Louise Wilkerson and John Bowman, President of the St. Louis County NAACP.
The state of Missouri has agreed to improve voter registration at Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) license offices to settle a League lawsuit against the Secretary of State and the Department of Revenue (DOR). The lawsuit filed by LWV of Missouri and the A. Philip Randolph Institute in April 2018 accused the state of violating the federal National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) by not automatically updating voter information after residents change addresses.
As part of the settlement, DOR will redirect residents to the Secretary of State’s voter registration website when they change their address at a license office. DOR also agreed to improve voter registration services by changing in-person and mailed change-of-address requests, conduct audits, publish data and designate an NVRA coordinator to ensure compliance with the settlement. The agreement provides court supervision for two years.
“Each election, disenfranchisement occurs when Missouri voters appear at the polls and find out that they are not registered at their current address,” said LWVMO President Evelyn Maddox.”While there are other improvements the League would like to see to make it easier to register and vote, these changes at DMV license offices will bring Missouri closer to full compliance and reduce the number of qualified voters being shut out of the political process.”
Click here for an Associated Press story from Nov. 21 about the settlement.
More than 150 guests attended a November 13 gala at the Sheldon to mark the 100th Anniversary of the St. Louis League. Many toured the Green Room where early meetings of the suffragists who founded the League were held.
Betsey Bruce hosted the program to honor League presidents from the past 100 years. LWVMO President Evelyn Maddox gave each honoree an engraved photo frame. She also presented a certificate to Gay Gellhorn to honor her grandmother, Edna Gellhorn, who served as President of the Missouri League from 1919-21 and 1927-29.
The League learned ways to educate the public on the climate crisis and advocate for changes at the state and local level at the November 2 Fall Workshop in Sedalia.
Carolyn Amaparan from the Climate Reality Project stressed the urgency of the climate crisis. While 97 percent of scientists believe humans are causing the climate to change, polls show almost half of Missouri voters deny that fact. Impacts for the state include more days with temperatures above 95 degrees, weather catastrophes, and numerous health issues.
“Renewable energy is cheaper now than other sources of conventional energy,” Amparan said. LWVCBC member Dick Parker advocated for ways to reduce harmful greenhouse gas production, from shuttering coal-powered plants to switching to electric cars with batteries powered by wind and solar energy. (See the handouts or click here to see their presentations).
President Evelyn Maddox summarized expectations for local Leagues under the Making Democracy Work and People Powered Fair Maps grants from LWVUS. She said those grants will help local Leagues become more technologically sufficient, more aware of the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion, and on the road to long-term financial sustainability. Louise Wilkerson led an exercise on how to local Leagues can overcome obstacles to diversity.