A new federal lawsuit asks a judge to make Missouri’s mail-in voting process easier in an effort to avoid excluding some voters from the November election – and during the ongoing spread of COVID-19. The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, Missouri Faith Voices, and other groups are involved in the lawsuit. It targets Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and the state’s 116 local election authorities.
The lawsuit criticizes how Missouri’s mail-in voters are required to mail their notarized ballots back to the election board but people who vote absentee can drop off their ballots in-person. It goes on to say the state law does not include basic procedural safeguards to prevent the denial of mail and absentee ballots.
“Missouri allows absentee and mail ballots to be rejected for minor errors not material to the voter’s eligibility and fails to ensure voters have opportunities to correct errors or omissions on their ballot envelope statement. Eligible voters can have their ballot rejected without notice or opportunity to cure defects—and may never learn their vote was not counted.
While some jurisdictions attempt to alert voters to such deficiencies, there are no required procedural protections prior to rejecting a voter’s mail ballot, leaving many Missourians no means to cure ballot envelope statements without having to travel to their local board of elections in person. These burdens on the right to vote already disenfranchised scores of voters during the August 2020 elections, including first-time voters, Black and brown voters, and older voters, some of whom were quarantined in senior living facilities,” a press release says.
Maura Browning with the Missouri Secretary of State’s office says it does not comment on ongoing legal matters but says the state has already held three successful elections during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To view the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District, click here.
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