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Missouri Legislature Passes Bills to Undercut Fundamental Right to Vote

JEFFERSON CITY, MO. – Today, the Missouri Legislature took the final step in a direct attack on the right to vote by passing a photo ID requirement, known as H.B. 1631 and a ballot resolution, H.J.R. 53, which will undercut the state’s constitutional right to vote if passed by voters later this year. The measures equate to a full-force attack on the voting rights of Missourians – especially voters of color, who face disproportionate barriers to acquiring photo ID. In response, the national civil rights and racial justice group, Advancement Project, which has a voter protection program in Missouri, released the following statement:

“Passing these voting restrictions was reckless, vindictive and a nefarious act aimed at dismantling democracy,” said Rev. Dr. Cassandra Gould, Executive Director of Missouri Faith Voices, a PICO Federation, and member of the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, a coalition of several dozen grass roots organizations working to protect the Right to Vote in Missouri. “It amounts to dancing on the graves of people of color who fought, sacrificed and were killed so we could have this right, while spitting in the face of their descendants,” added Gould, who is also a pastor of Quinn Chapel AME Church, the oldest Black entity in Jefferson City. “I take this personally, as my mother was one of those 1960s voting rights freedom fighters. I never imagined having less rights in 2016 than my parents had in 1965. As a faith leader, this is a burning bush moment. It is not coincidental that Missouri has been the epicenter for the national explosion of racial tension, first with Ferguson and then with Mizzou. The history of racism, discriminatory laws and practices has gone unaccounted for. This legislation represents the worst moral crisis in the state of Missouri that we have experienced in decades. Instead of legislature enacting laws to improve the lives of citizens, they have failed us.”

“Legislators who tamper with Missouri’s right to vote are trying to unfairly determine who has a voice in our democracy,” said Advancement Project Executive Director Judith Browne Dianis. “Making it harder for some communities to cast a ballot is not only undemocratic, but also unconstitutional. From years of organizing, we know that this most recent attack will not stand up against the conviction of eligible voters who are determined to have their say in our political process.”

“By passing a photo ID requirement and a resolution to chip away at the constitutional right to vote, the Missouri legislature has sent a message to thousands of Missourians that the state doesn’t want them included in our democracy,” said Advancement Project Senior Attorney Denise Lieberman, who coordinates the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, which has opposed similar proposals in the state over the last decade. “In 2006, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that that a Photo ID requirement violates the fundamental right to vote. Now lawmakers seek to weaken the constitution’s voting protections so they can implement this unconstitutional requirement. Even as amended, these bills weaken protections for voting in our constitution and relegate hundreds of thousands of eligible Missouri voters to second-class citizens – particularly senior citizens, veterans, people living in poverty, people with disabilities and people of color.”

“For the past ten years, grassroots voting rights advocates in the state have successfully pushed back against restrictive voting measures like the ones passed today. The passage of H.B. 1631 and H.J.R. 53 is a clear sign that lawmakers do not care about the will of the people – and worse, they don’t want certain people to have a voice. It is reprehensible that politicians would manipulate the system to strip away our fundamental right to vote. We cannot let them. The fate of the right to vote will now rest with Missouri voters. We will now take our message to voters that we should not weaken our right to vote as we continue our fight to ensure elections are free, fair and accessible to all.”

The Photo ID bill, H.B. 1631, now heads to the Governor’s desk to be signed or vetoed. The constitutional resolution, H.J.R. 53, does not go to the Governor for approval. The measure will be put before voters in August or November, per the Governor’s designation.

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Advancement Project is a multi-racial civil rights organization. Founded by a team of veteran civil rights lawyers in 1999, Advancement Project was created to develop and inspire community-based solutions based on the same high quality legal analysis and public education campaigns that produced the landmark civil rights victories of earlier eras.

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