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Missouri Voter Advocates Condemn Passage of Voting Bill

This media release was originally published by the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition (MOVPC).

(ST. LOUIS, MO) Missouri voter protection advocates condemned the passage Thursday evening of H.B. 1878 in the Missouri House as unnecessary, unconstitutional, and burdensome voting restrictions that undermine Missourians' right to vote and undermine free and fair elections in Missouri. The measure passed following vigorous objection on the House floor from Missouri’s lawmakers of color to a largely empty room.

“The ability of all Missourians to cast a ballot lies at the heart of a functioning democracy, yet H.B. 1878 attacks Missourians’ right to vote across the board,” said Denise Lieberman, Director & General Counsel of the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, which lead statewide efforts in opposition to the bill. “H.B. 1878 is breathtaking in the ways it undermines our elections - requiring an unconstitutional photo ID provision, implementing a phantom early voting provision, hindering voter registration drives, allowing the Secretary of State to order voters removed from the rolls, opens the door to sham audits and more.” What began as a 7-page Photo ID bill has become a more than 80-page Model Voter Sabotage Bill - incorporating some the most restrictive provisions seen in states around the country that disparately impact voters of color.

The Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, a nonpartisan statewide network of more than 50 affiliated organizations, came to the Capitol last week to lobby against the bill. “Our freedom to vote should not be a political football. Lawmakers should make voting easier, not harder,” said Lieberman, a voting rights lawyer who has been involved in prior photo ID legal challenges in Missouri. “The State’s own data shows that the photo ID provision stands to burden more than 200,000 Missouri voters, disproportionately voters of color, seniors, voters with disabilities, young voters, and low-wage workers. The bill’s other provisions hit these communities hardest as well. Our democracy only functions when all have a seat at the table.”

MOVPC partners have vowed to continue to fight the barriers to the ballot contained in H.B. 1878 and issued the following statements:

Marilyn McLeod, President of the League of Women Voters of Missouri, which was also a plaintiff in the prior photo ID legal challenge, said:  “The right to vote is our most basic right and is the cornerstone of all of our rights.  This legislation provides unnecessary roadblocks to our most basic right. 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. It allows unnecessary voter purges, makes it more difficult for people with disabilities to vote independently, prevents local election authorities from receiving grant funds to improve their outreach to the citizenry; prohibits voter registration efforts by organizations that have staff providing that service; as well as many other limiting provisions. Limiting the right to vote for some citizens is a limit to the right to vote for all citizens.” 

Rev. Darryl Gray, Executive Director of Missouri Faith Voices, who has marched alongside iconic civil rights figures, including Ralph Abernathy said of the passage of H.B. 1878: “This blatant attack on black Missourians is an attack against our basic rights and freedom. The legislature is trying to take this state back to the ‘good old boy’ days of Jim crow, with Jim Crow policies and tactics. Black people and our allies will not sit idle while our basic human rights are threatened, we will meet this threat in the courts, the ballot box, and the streets if necessary.”

Nimrod Chapel, Jr., President of the Missouri State Conference of the NAACP, said: “As Missouri’s legislators yet again attempt to implement an unconstitutional, restrictive and racially discriminatory photo ID law, we will work with the community to make sure the rights of Missouri voters are restored and everyone can have their vote counted. The NAACP has long raised concerns about Missouri’s efforts to implement a discriminatory voter ID law, and it is one of the reasons we have issued a travel advisory for the state. Democracy in Missouri is not a safe place for black voters.” The NAACP was a plaintiff in a 2017 challenging a prior iteration of Missouri’s photo ID law and vowed to take the matter to court again. 

Sal Valadez, co-chair of MOVPC’s Language Access Committee, who lead a statewide conversation with Governor Parson expressing concerns about the voter ID proposal during 2022 Hispanic Day at the Capitol, said that H.B. 1878 would have a disparate impact on Missouri’s Hispanic population. “There are members in our Latino community and other communities who can vote, but they don’t drive. Our system is not broken. But these are voter restrictions for us as a minority community.”

Kristi Branstetter, a Kansas City organizer who is a member of MOVPC’s Accessibility Committee expressed concerns about HB1878’s impact on voters with disabilities: “Everyone’s voice needs to be heard at the voting booth. It is especially important for people with disabilities to have their voices heard. HB 1878 will restrict people with disabilities because not everyone has access to a photo ID and not everyone can get transportation to engage in the voting process. I do not drive and I have experienced this.”

The legislation - H.B. 1878 which originally passed the House in March - came to the floor of the Senate last week as advocates were at the capitol lobbying against the bill during Missouri Voting Rights Lobby Day. After nearly 9 hours of debate, the Senate approved the bill with amendments. The bill now adds two weeks of no-excuse absentee voting, but only for voters able to cast ballots in person at the election authority (typically during working hours), and only upon presentation of state-issued photo ID. The measure also eliminates early voting altogether if the unconstitutional photo ID provision is struck down. It also includes provisions allowing the Secretary of State to order removal of voters from the rolls at his discretion, outside the protections of federal list maintenance guidelines established by the National Voter Registration Act; opens the door to privately contracted election audits outside of audit best practices; and transfers power over voting law legal challenges from the executive branch to partisan lawmakers, among other provisions. It also makes it illegal to pay anyone for voter registration, hampering organizations whose staff do voter registration as part of their work; prohibits any election changes within 6 months of election day (which would have blocked lawmakers from allowing mail-in voting for the 2020 elections during the pandemic); and requires hand marked paper ballots, impeding some voters with disabilities from casting an independent ballot.

Many of the added provisions are rooted in disinformation about the integrity of elections using model language inserted in state bills around the country. 

Jennifer Slavik Lohman, who chairs MOVPC’s Anti-Disinformation Working Group said:  “Lawmakers have leveraged disinformation about our elections to manufacture a pretext for unnecessary, suppressive legislation. Their brazen manipulation of irrational fears about fictional problems is an outrageous attack on our freedom to vote, and is nothing short of election sabotage. Missourians everywhere should be shocked and angry that extremists are attacking our free and fair elections to serve their own selfish purposes using deliberate lies and deceit.”

The Senate compromise authorized two weeks of no-excuse absentee voting, but only for voters able to appear in person at the election office (no relief for those who need ballots by mail), and is eliminated entirely if the photo ID provision is struck down.  “While Missouri should join the 35 states that allow no-excuse absentee voting, it should be available to all voters, not just those who can take off work to get to the election office, and certainly not contingent on a discriminatory photo ID provision,” Lieberman said. 

While MOVPC considers a legal challenge to the bill, voter advocates have committed to continuing to fight to ensure Missouri’s voters can cast a ballot. 

“We have fought long and hard for the right to vote; to see the clock turning back now is devastating,” said Patricia Jones-Macklin with the Greater Kansas City Chapter of A. Philip Randolph Institute, who Chairs MOVPC’s Election Protection Program in Kanas City. “We cannot stop now. We must fight for our right to vote, and we must exercise our right to vote!”


The Missouri Voter Protection Coalition is a nonpartisan statewide network of advocates that advance the freedom to vote for all Missourians through policy advocacy, strategic litigation, voter education and Election Protection