WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last week, a lawsuit was filed by two Missouri organizations, Missouri Protection & Advocacy Services and VozKC, and voters challenging the state’s voter assistance restrictions. Missouri laws dictate that individuals (excluding election judges) can only assist one voter outside of their immediate families with completing ballots. The plaintiffs argue that these laws directly contradict Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) by limiting assistance available to voters with disabilities or who have limited English proficiency and claim these laws should be blocked by the court.
Section 208 states in relevant part that “[a]ny voter who requires assistance to vote by reason of blindness, disability, or inability to read or write may be given assistance by a person of the voter’s choice.” The lawsuit points out that, even though the state has a sizable Latino population, an increasing number of citizens who speak a language other than English and a significant number of voters with disabilities, state laws limit the ability of voters to receive assistance from non-family members, thereby burdening voters who rely on outside assistance to cast their ballots. The lawsuit argues that Missouri’s voter assistance restrictions violate federal law and, in turn, the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution because state laws cannot contradict federal law.