JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
As the bench trial in the lawsuit against Missouri's voter ID law continues, witnesses and an expert are expected to testify Monday on the effects of the law.
The Missouri NAACP and League of Women Voters, represented by lawyers from the ACLU of Missouri, are challenging Missouri's voter ID requirement in Cole County Circuit Court. The suit claims the law, passed in 2022, creates barriers for voters. The state argues no one has been turned away from polls due to the law.
The voter ID law was challenged in court last year. That lawsuit was dismissed because the court said there was not enough evidence to sue. Now, the lawsuit is refiled with at least one new witness.
The ACLU of Missouri tells ABC 17 News that two witnesses and an expert are expected to testify before Cole County Judge Jon Beteem on Monday. The bench trial started Friday and is expected to last through Wednesday.
"We're confident that upon the conclusion of this evidence, the court will see clearly that this law does not address any ballot, much less compelling government interest," said Denise Lieberman, the ACLU of Missouri lawyer arguing the case in court.
Monday's trial kicked off just after 9 a.m. with testimony from Lorraine Minnite, a professor of political science at Rutgers University focusing her research on social justice and political conflict. Minnite was called on to prepare an expert report on voter fraud issues in Missouri by the ACLU of Missouri.
Minnite's report concluded that voter fraud is rare in Missouri and a photo ID requirement is not likely to lower instances of voter fraud.
"There were already rules in place," Minnite said in open court. "There's already criminal penalties involved. There are already professionals running elections whose job it is to prevent fraud."
The ACLU of Missouri will call 10 people to testify over the four-day trial. The new witness, John O'Connor, is a 90-year-old man from Columbia. O'Connor has physical limitations, according to the ACLU of Missouri, that make the photo ID requirements a barrier or difficulty for him.
Boone County resident Rene Powell testified Monday. Rene's epilepsy and mobility issues prevent her from going to the DMV and renewing her driver's license. The 2022 law only allows voters to use unexpired driver's licenses.
"Epilepsy and other disabilities make it impossible for her to access the local DMV, and she can no longer vote using her expired state I.D., something that was eligible before," Lieberman said.
Missouri's voter ID law requires everyone to show a government-issued photo ID to vote. Valid forms of identification include military IDs and driver's licenses.
The state provides one free photo ID to anyone who needs one to vote.
If a person tries to vote without a photo ID, they can cast a provisional ballot that will be counted if they return later with a photo ID or the county clerk can verify their signature.
The voter ID law was a compromise between Republicans and Democrats in 2022. The whole law is an omnibus, containing many different provisions all relating to elections. A provision in the law says that if one part is overturned then the whole law will be dismissed. That means if the lawsuit goes in favor of the League of Women Voters and NAACP, it may also eliminate parts of the law the groups liked, such as no-excuse absentee voting.