Missouri Photo ID Ruling Good for Voters

March 29, 2012

The Brennan Center applauds the Missouri trial court for striking down the ballot summary for a proposed amendment to the state Constitution that would have cleared the way for requiring voters to show photo identification. The court found that the language chosen by proponents of the measure was unfair and confusing to voters.

The summary that voters would have seen on the ballot read: "Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to adopt the Voter Protection Act and allow the General Assembly to provide by general law for advance voting prior to election day, voter photo identification requirements, and voter requirements based on whether one appears to vote in person or by absentee ballot?"

In her written opinion, Judge Joyce objects to the phrase Voter Protection Act. She writes that no such program exists currently or in companion legislation passed by the General Assembly. She also found against the summary statement in its use of the word "allow", because the state already has the authority to enact advanced voting, photo identification balloting and absentee voting.

"The summary statement fails in several respects to accurately inform citizens as to the subject matter on which they are asked to vote, and significant revisions would be required to correct the statement," wrote Joyce.

The Court sent the measure back to the legislature to clarify the language. This will not prevent a voter ID amendment from appearing on the ballot, but it will help ensure the measure is put to voters in a fair and balanced way.