WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday, Aug. 22, the League of Women Voters of Missouri and the Missouri NAACP filed a lawsuit challenging multiple provisions of Missouri’s newly enacted omnibus voter suppression law, House Bill 1878, for violating the Missouri Constitution. In their complaint against the state of Missouri, Missouri Secretary of State John Ashcroft (R) and the Cole County prosecuting attorney, the plaintiffs challenge four provisions of the anti-voting law that aim to curtail voter registration efforts and prohibit the distribution of absentee ballot applications throughout the state. Specifically, these provisions 1) prohibit individuals who solicit (generally meaning distribute or encourage people to fill out applications, though notably the law does not explicitly define “solicitation”) voter registration applications from being paid, 2) require uncompensated individuals who solicit more than 10 voter registration applications to register with the secretary of state, 3) mandate that all voter registration solicitors be registered to vote in Missouri and 4) ban individuals or groups from asking voters if they want to fill out an absentee ballot application. Violations of these provisions of H.B. 1878 can result in severe punishments in the form of criminal misdemeanor or felony charges. The plaintiffs note that the threats of criminal prosecution associated with these “vague” and “overbroad” provisions “harshly chill and restrict…commonplace community-based voter engagement” including voter registration, advocacy and outreach efforts involving the distribution of absentee ballot applications.
In addition, the plaintiffs assert that the challenged provisions violate the right to free speech, free association and due process under the Missouri Constitution. They request that the court declare the provisions unconstitutional under the state constitution and prohibit the defendants from enforcing them. H.B. 1878 is set to go into effect on Aug. 28 and, absent any action by the court, the changes to the state’s election statutes imposed by the law will remain in effect for the upcoming Nov. 8 general election. Lawsuits against other provisions contained within the far-reaching voter suppression law — including its stringent photo ID requirement for in-person voting — are expected to be filed sometime this week.