Cole County Senior Judge Richard Callahan said Monday he expects to have a ruling next week in the lawsuit challenging Missouri’s new law requiring a photo identification as the easiest way to cast a vote at the polls. He gave lawyers for both sides until the end of Wednesday to submit any final briefs in the case. The lawsuit was filed earlier this year by national group Priorities USA, two Missouri residents and the West (St. Louis) County Community Action Network. They argue that a 2016 voter-approved amendment and the enacting legislation adding the photo ID language to Missouri Constitution don’t “eliminate the express, constitutional right to vote” that already is defined in two different places in the Constitution — and they want Callahan to block enforcement of the law during the Nov. 6 general election. “Plaintiffs started this case talking about the right to vote, and the unique place it holds in our democracy,” lawyer Uzoma Nkwonta, of Washington, D.C., told Callahan at the beginning of Monday’s final arguments in the trial that began last week.
“We have stressed that throughout (the trial), because this court will be called on to determine what the fundamental right to vote means at this moment in the state of Missouri,” he told Callahan. “We have, on one hand, several constitutional provisions in Missouri that make it unmistakably clear — that the right to vote is fundamental and is of utmost importance.”
Their lawsuit cited the state Constitution’s Article I (the Bill of Rights), Section 25, which says: “That all elections shall be free and open; and no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage.”
And they pointed to Article VIII — which deals with “Suffrage and Elections” — Section 2, which sets the qualifications of voters: “All citizens of the United States, including occupants of soldiers’ and sailors’ homes, over the age of eighteen who are residents of this state and of the political subdivision in which they offer to vote are entitled to vote at all elections by the people.”