Missouri Legislature Continues Attack on Fundamental Right to Vote

September 14, 2016
Contact: Ricardo A. Ramírez, 202-728-9557
Email: rramirez@advancementproject.org

Legislators Override Veto of Photo ID bill, Setting Up Ballot Fight for Right to Vote

JEFFERSON CITY, MO. – Today, the Missouri Legislature overrode a veto from Gov. Jay Nixon on a bill the governor called “an affront to Missourians’ fundamental right to vote” that would create hurdles to voting for thousands of Missourians. The veto override of H.B. 1631 imposes restrictive and discriminatory Photo ID requirements, and coincides with a ballot initiative, Amendment 6, which, if enacted, would weaken the right to vote and allow this and other voting restrictions to go into effect. Together, 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 with Organization for Black Struggle and Missouri Faith Voices:

“Opponents of the right to vote are creating a flawed, expensive, and confusing hurdle for hundreds of thousands of eligible Missouri voters,” said the Rev. Dr. Cassandra Gould, Executive Director of Missouri Faith Voices 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. “This would not fix an actual problem; it would simply reduce the number of people who can vote in the election. Our elected representatives should seek to win elections by winning over the public. Instead, the legislature is relying on myths and subscribing to an ugly tradition harkening back to our country’s unjust racial exclusion policies in the past: Attacking our fundamental right to vote.”

“Restricting the right to vote is not something done out of power, but out of desperation,” said Jamala Rogers, Interim Executive Director of Organization for Black Struggle. “The killing of Mike Brown ushered in a new era of grassroots leaders with renewed enthusiasm for equity and liberation. Partisan politicians might try their best to stay in power by silencing us, but it’s too late. The community is galvanized, more engaged and more active than ever.”

“For opponents of voting rights, claiming to protect elections is an old, cynical ruse for weakening the right to vote and excluding people of color from the ballot,” said Judith Browne Dianis, Executive Director of Advancement Project’s national office. “Legislators who tamper with Missouri’s right to vote are trying to unfairly determine who has a voice in our democracy. Unfortunately for them, voting rights groups are winning and changing the narrative. Even the courts are recognizing voter ID efforts as racially-motivated suppression tactics. Making it harder for some communities to cast a ballot is firmly rooted in our nation’s Jim Crow past. Slowly but surely, Americans are rejecting race-based attacks on the right to vote.”

“Amendment 6, is a flawed, expensive constitutional amendment that will create hassle and confusion for hundreds of thousands of eligible Missouri voters,” 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. “H.B. 1631 and the proposed constitutional change will cause problems for all sorts of folks—especially seniors, people with disabilities, students, women, veterans and people of color. Relegating hundreds of thousands of eligible Missouri voters to second-class citizens while weakening our fundamental right to vote is reprehensible. We will continue taking our message to voters: We should not weaken our right to vote as we continue our fight to ensure that elections are free, fair and accessible to all.”