A judge for the Cole County Circuit Court granted a preliminary injunction in LWVMO and Missouri NAACP v. Missouri, blocking enforcement of several provisions in Missouri’s H.B. 1878. Specifically, the lawsuit challenged restrictions that criminalized certain voter engagement activities and assistance with absentee ballot applications conducted by...
Defending Nonpartisan Civic Engagement Organizations in Missouri (LWVMO and Missouri NAACP v. Missouri)
At a Glance
The League of Women Voters of Missouri and Missouri State Conference of the NAACP are challenging several parts of Missouri’s anti-voter bill that restrict civic engagement groups’ ability to assist with voter registration and absentee ballot applications.Back to top
About this Case
The League of Women Voters of Missouri (LWVMO) and Missouri State Conference of the NAACP (Missouri NAACP) filed a lawsuit in Missouri state court challenging several provisions of Missouri’s new anti-voter bill, H.B. 1878. The plaintiffs are represented by Campaign Legal Center (CLC), the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri (ACLU MO), and the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition (MOVPC).
Among other restrictive measures, the bill: (1) prohibits any person other than a government employee from being paid to assist with voter registration; (2) requires any person who assists more than 10 voters with registration to register with the Secretary of State as a “voter registration solicitor” ; (3) mandates that only registered voters in the state of Missouri are permitted to assist with voter registration; and (4) forbids anyone from suggesting a person should obtain an absentee ballot application.
The challenged provisions violate LWVMO’s and Missouri NAACP’s freedom of speech, freedom of association and due process protections enshrined in the Missouri Constitution.
To make matters worse, these restrictions are backed by harsh criminal penalties. In Missouri, if someone violates election law, they could lose the freedom to vote for life. The bill’s language is so vague that a volunteer could be subject to prosecution, including prison time, for simply reminding a voter that they can vote absentee if they will be out of town on Election Day.
LWVMO and the Missouri NAACP hold frequent voter registration events in communities throughout Missouri. Volunteers travel to places like churches, naturalization ceremonies, high schools and community colleges, back-to-school events, food drives and more to promote civic engagement by encouraging attendees to register to vote and cast a ballot.
During those events, volunteers also make absentee ballot applications available for eligible voters, encourage voters to apply to vote absentee and assist voters with the absentee ballot application process. Engagement efforts like these are an important tool in making voting accessible, especially for voters from historically marginalized communities, including voters of color, low-income voters, and voters with disabilities, as well as young voters.
H.B. 1878 could put a halt to much of this important work, severely hampering protected political speech and activity by LWVMO, the Missouri NAACP and their members and employees.
Through their voter engagement work, these organizations and their members seek to communicate a pro-voter message and encourage civic participation. Unfortunately, because of H.B. 1878’s broad reach and vague provisions, voter engagement will become far more difficult for civic engagement organizations. Civic engagement groups like LWVMO and Missouri NAACP will likely be barred from encouraging voters to apply to vote absentee or assisting voters with absentee ballot applications.
Our democracy is strongest when every voter can make their voice heard. Our laws should protect and expand the freedom to vote, not punish the people who are trying to strengthen our democracy by helping more Missourians vote.