Missouri in Violation of "Motor Voter" Law

Release Date: 
July 6, 2017

The League of Women Voters of Missouri and the St. Louis and Greater Kansas City Chapters of the A. Philip Randolph Institute Call on State to Fix Voter Registration at DMVs

(Jefferson City, MO) – Today, in a letter sent on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Missouri and the St. Louis and Greater Kansas City Chapters of the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), attorneys for the voting rights groups Dēmos and Advancement Project officially notified Missouri Secretary of State, John R. Ashcroft, and the Director of the Missouri Department of Revenue (DOR), Joel Walters, that the state of Missouri is failing to provide voter registration opportunities as required by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA).

In Missouri, licenses and identification cards are issued through the DOR. The NVRA, commonly known as the “Motor Voter” law, requires DOR to provide voter registration services whenever an individual applies for, renews, or changes their address on a driver’s license or state identification card during transactions that take place in-person in DOR offices, online through DOR’s website, or by mail.

“The NVRA includes very specific criteria to ensure that eligible citizens can register and vote, and these requirements are not optional; they apply whether individuals conduct their business with DHSMV in person, online, or by mail,” said Kathleen Boswell, President of the League of Women Voters of Missouri. “By calling on DOR to comply with the NVRA, we want to make sure that fewer citizens will show up at the polls and be denied the right to vote because their information is outdated.”

According to the letter, DOR is failing to meet the law’s requirements during driver’s license and ID card renewals conducted online or by mail. The letter notes that DOR is failing to automatically update voter registrations when individuals report a change of address on their driver's license or state ID. This update is required by the NVRA to assist voters in keeping their registrations current.

 “Correcting these voter registration practices is of particular importance to people of color and low-income individuals,” said Keith Robinson, President of the St. Louis Chapter of APRI. “These individuals tend to move at higher rates and, therefore, also tend to use these NVRA practices as the most convenient source to update their voter registration information.”

“A significant number of qualified voters interact with DOR,” said Patricia A. Jones, President of the Greater Kansas City Chapter of APRI. “Because the failure to be registered is often cited as primary reason eligible citizens give for note voting, improving voter registration practices at DOR is of critical importance.”

Today’s letter urged the Secretary of State and the DOR to take immediate steps to bring the State into compliance with federal law.  

“DOR is violating federal law and denying citizens the opportunity to register to vote and update their voter registration information,” said Naila Awan, Counsel at Demos. “Missouri must take the necessary steps to correct DOR’s voter registration practices—steps that are not only required to comply with the law, but which will also help Missouri create a more robust, inclusive, and responsive democracy.”

According to the voting rights advocates, if Missouri fails to correct its practices in the next 90 days, the state could be subject to litigation.

“We stand ready and willing to provide guidance on how the State of Missouri can help register to vote ordinary Americans by complying with federal law,” said Denise Lieberman, Senior Attorney and Co-Program Director of Power and Democracy at Advancement Project. “We hope to work cooperatively with the State to correct its voter registration practices, but we are prepared to go to court if necessary.”

 

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