A Missouri state judge blocked parts of the state's voter identification law on Tuesday, ruling that state elections officials could no longer tell voters that they are required to show a photo ID in order to cast a vote.
Cole County's Senior Circuit Judge Richard Callahan said that the state cannot continue to advertise that a photo identification card is required to vote. "No compelling state interest is served by misleading local election authorities and voters into believing a photo ID card is a requirement for voting," he wrote in the ruling.
The Missouri decision arrives less than a month before the midterms on November 6, in which Democrats are fighting to take control of Congress and Republicans are hoping to retain it. There are many close Senate and House races happening across the country, including in Missouri between Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill and her Republican challenger, Attorney General Josh Hawley.
Missouri is one of 34 states that mandates voters to provide some form of identification at the polls, after the state's General Assembly passed a constitutional amendment in 2016. While Judge Callahan's ruling doesn't nullify that law, "state officials can no longer spread materials that say a photo identification card is required to vote or that voters will be asked to show a photo ID card, without specifying other forms of identification that voters may also show," according to Reuters. "In addition, the ruling says state authorities can no longer require people otherwise qualified to vote to sign a sworn statement."
The decision came after Priorities USA, a progressive advocacy organization, filed a lawsuit in June against "Missouri’s burdensome strict photo ID law." The suit asked the court to "restrain" the state's photo identification requirements and "declare that these requirements violate the Missouri Constitution." The organization said the law could disenfranchise 220,000 eligible Missouri voters.
Echoing the language put forth by Priorities USA, in Callahan's ruling, he wrote that the requirement that a voter lacking a valid photo ID must sign a sworn statement and present another form of identification in order to vote "impermissibly infringes on a citizen's right to vote as guaranteed under the Missouri Constitution," according to NPR.
Priorities USA Chairman Guy Cecil said in a statement that the ruling is a victory. "With this injunction in place, hundreds of thousands of eligible voters in Missouri who do not possess photo ID — and who could have otherwise been disenfranchised due to the law’s highly confusing and burdensome requirements — will once again be able to cast their ballots free from unnecessary obstacles," he wrote, Reuters reported.
Missouri secretary of state Jay Ashcroft has promoted the law as a means to prevent vote fraud. But according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he's only been able to confirm one instance of voter impersonation in Missouri.
Ashcroft "says he plans to appeal a court ruling blocking key portions of the state’s voter photo ID law ahead of the November elections," the Associated Press reported.