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Missouri Changed Voter ID Requirements, Citing Confusion. Yet on Election Day, There Was Confusion.

by ProPublica | Updated on 11.7.18

Voters in Missouri faced confused poll workers as they went to vote on Tuesday, with many reporting they were turned away for not having valid photo identification. The confusion was a result of an October court ruling that allowed Missourians to cast ballots with a range of forms of identification.

Taylor Fritz, 25, brought the voter registration card mailed to him by the state to cast a ballot at his polling station, the Legacy Park Community Center in Lees Summit. But poll workers there told him the card was not an acceptable form of ID, even though a state website specifically says it is. There was even a poster in the gymnasium where he cast a ballot that stated registration cards were acceptable, Fritz said.

“Lucky for me I was able to show my valid state issued ID,” Fritz, an insurance broker, said in an interview. “The problem is not everyone has a state ID like me.”

Kristen Mitchell, a retired 51-year-old, had a similar experience when she went to vote in Dallas County, in southwest Missouri. She said she saw signs at the polls telling people photo ID was required to vote. Poll workers, she said, told voters they had to have photo ID to cast ballots, and refused to take down the erroneous signs.

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Missouri’s voter ID law, which went into effect in 2017, required voters to show a photo ID at the polls. But if a voter doesn’t have an acceptable form of photo ID they could verify their identity using other documents, such as a bank statement or utility bill. Under the 2017 law, if voters used one of those forms of verification, they had to sign an affidavit swearing they “didn’t have a form of identification approved for voting.” But in October, State Judge Richard Callahan, struck down the affidavit requirement, saying it was confusing. Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft appealed the ruling, but the Missouri Supreme Court declined to overturn it.

Callahan’s ruling meant that Missourians do not have to show photo ID at the polls and did not have to sign any additional documents swearing they were unable to obtain an acceptable form of ID.

Many poll workers were not clear about the new requirement.

Dallas County Clerk Stephanie Hendricks said she was unaware of problems at her polling place.

Hendricks said the small county had to “scrape the bottom of the barrel” for poll workers, who only received 90 minutes of training. This, combined with the very short notice for the legal change, made it difficult to help poll workers understand the law.

“There’s only so much you can get people to absorb in an hour or an hour and a half. We do the best we can, but I can’t say it always soaks in,” she said. “The last few elections it’s been photo ID, photo ID, photo ID, and now all of a sudden the brakes have been thrown on. It’s confusing for people.”

Britt Eubanks, 53, went to use his U.S. passport to vote in St. Charles because he has had issues voting with his driver’s license in the past. When he presented his passport, Eubanks said a poll worker told him he needed his driver’s license. When Eubanks said a passport was acceptable, he said the poll workers told him it would take longer to vote because they would have to enter it in manually. It ultimately took them a few minutes to enter his information, he said.

“I would like to think it was just lack of training,” Eubanks said in an interview.

St. Charles County appears to be instructing its poll workers to disregard the ruling, and has so far ignored demand letters from attorneys at Advancement Project, a civil rights group. Advancement Project attorney Denise Lieberman said the group is considering legal remedies due to the county’s “flagrant disregard” for the judge’s ruling.

Lieberman said dozens of voters have called Advancement Project with complaints about poll workers in Missouri, who are reportedly telling voters who present non-photo forms of ID that they “don’t agree” with the ruling and don’t believe they are required to follow it. Lieberman said the group first sent a demand letter to Rich Chrismer, the local director of elections, this afternoon. He did not respond, and follow up calls to his office were not returned. A letter to the county’s attorney was did not receive a response.

Calls to St. Charles County were not returned. Each time reporters called the county, hold time estimates were greater than one hour.

Advancement Project also sent Franklin County a demand letter after voters at two polling locations reported poll workers were refusing to accept non-photo ID. Debbe Door, the Franklin County Clerk, said she was surprised to get the letter but immediately called both locations to review the new rules. She said the late notice made it difficult to impress the rules upon poll workers, and that the county was doing “the best we can” to make sure everyone could vote.

“We did everything we could given that we were on such short notice,” she said. “We’ve got election judges that are 70 or 80 years old and we threw something new at them without an opportunity to train.”

Voters who called the Election Protection hotline reported that poll workers demanded drivers licenses and rejected other forms of ID allowed under the ruling, and pushed back when voters explained that was no longer allowed. Lieberman said her group is seeing the same across the county.

Maura Browning, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, said the state’s top election official has not received many complaints over the issue.

“We have had very few reports of problems,” she said in an email. “There may have been some confusion in a few of the 3,000 polling places in Missouri, but Judge Callahan’s ruling just 13 days before the election opened up the opportunity for that. Aside from those minor hiccups, the day has gone very smoothly.”

Marc Elias, an attorney with Priorities USA, the group that brought the suit challenging the Missouri law, said that if workers were indeed requiring people to show photo ID or sign an affidavit, they would be violating a court order.

Trey Grayson, who served as Kentucky’s Secretary of State from 2004 to 2011, said it wasn’t uncommon to see poll workers confused about voter ID requirements, particularly when there had been a court-ordered change so close to an election.

“I think one of the challenges voter ID laws vary state by state,” he said. “They’re always in the news, it’s easy for even well meaning poll workers to kind of get confused.”

ProPublica

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(21)
  • Rhonda
    11/07/2018
    ···

    It is stuff like this that is a threat to our voting not voter fraud but rather voter denial in a variety of ways. This kind of thing MUST stop!

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  • B.R.
    11/08/2018
    ···

    This is why voter ID should be standardized across states.

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  • Jeffrey
    11/08/2018
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    Oh my! Showing ID is so hard!

    Like (2)
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  • Sean
    11/07/2018
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    There were so many nasty tricks and overt voter suppression by Republicans ! Argh!

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  • Katina
    11/08/2018
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    So do we have to pay to vote in MO or not?!? This is the first I heard of the Voter ID law being struck down - but you can bet I heard about all the reasons I should or shouldn’t vote for certain candidates! Requiring people to pay for an ID to vote (i.e., pay to vote) is so elitist and disenfranchises the young, elderly, and poor from voting. Your life circumstances should not prevent you from being able to participate in our democracy!

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  • Robert
    11/08/2018
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    Missouri has always been “the Show Me State” Inthis age of computers, GPS, etc. what’s the problem

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  • sammypolitics
    11/07/2018
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    Ridiculous. Obviously to keep their filthy Republicans in office.

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  • Kathleen
    11/08/2018
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    There were so many nasty tricks and overt voter suppression by Republicans ! Argh!

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  • Stephen
    11/08/2018
    ···

    1. If you’re having such difficulty finding people to assist at the polls, how hard are you searching and how are you incentivizing it? 2. A change in October is quite some time for those whose job it is to understand and enforce the policies. 3. This article states the members were given 60-90 minutes of training. I doubt this training was conducted more than a week in advance, providing ample time for the trainers to have a complete grasp of and present the current regulations. I would love to learn more about what exactly these citizens were fixed during this hour-long training that was more important than a change in voter ID that obviously made an impact to the ability of citizens to participate. I would also love to know why those who were working at the polls did not have access to someone who could rectify this miscommunication and ensure the problem was remedied across the board.

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  • Leslie
    11/08/2018
    ···

    I had no problem voting, but my nephew did, he lives in St Louis (moved for school and work) ,he is registered in Columbia where his parents live, he had his drivers license, his registration and voter ID card, he also took a bill addressed to him which had his parents address, and he was at the correct voting location as stated on his voter registration card...after all these precautions, he was not allowed to vote.

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  • Nancy
    11/08/2018
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    REALLY...SOUNDS MORE LIKE VOTER INTIMIDATION

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  • Nailea
    11/07/2018
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    I find totally irrelevant if there website states it clearly that should not reject the people who are doing the right and voting as well this may take away motivation for people to go voting.

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  • Jeffrey
    last Friday
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    All in an effort to suppress voters and kill democracy...this is the direction we’re going it seems

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  • BacktotheRight
    11/07/2018
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    This confused me. How hard can voting be. Young people, do it when you get your drivers license. Older folks, do it to have a form of ID that’s not your drivers license should you no longer have it. Anyone else who doesn’t drive but isn’t elderly, go to the DMV and get a state issued ID card.

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  • dvstinjames
    11/07/2018
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    As a liberal-leaning Missouri-resident, this is the first I’m hearing about this. I had no problem voting with my MO state-issued driver’s license, as I have in 2016 and any primaries since I’ve moved here. Outside of improper training on the expansion of voter IDs to poll workers, this feels like a non-issue to me, vs. GA which had wide-spread voter suppression resulting in a stolen gubernatorial election.

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  • Steve
    11/07/2018
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    This should invalidate the Missouri election.

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  • Cruise missile
    11/07/2018
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    That’s just an fucking excuse, you let Trump and Outsiders down. They were good republican candidates and you chose to keep democrats as moderate, just more bullshit excuse!! I want MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!!! Good Luck for you got Democrat Governors, Hope you learned a real pain lesson. Ron De santis, Rick scott are the genius. I wish you all congress the best of luck and God bless you and America.

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  • Andrew
    11/08/2018
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    I'm not the most informed on this topic, but I don't see a problem with people having to show ID/ verification to vote.

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  • Tom
    11/08/2018
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    I have worked the polls as a supervisor for 5 years showing an ID makes things go faster and smoother you hand the id they find your name on the registration book, also easier than spelling out your name and address loudly and everyone hears it

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