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Missouri Supreme Court Reinstates Lawsuit Challenging State's Absentee Voting Law Because Of Corona

A woman votes in the presidential primary election at the the Summit View Church of the Nazarene Tuesday, March 10, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo.
Charlie Riedel
A woman votes in the presidential primary election at the the Summit View Church of the Nazarene Tuesday, March 10, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo.

The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday kept alive a lawsuit that seeks to allow any voter to use an absentee ballot because of the pandemic.

The court sent the case back to the Cole County judge who dismissed it, finding that the challengers, including the NAACP and League of Women Voters, had a right to challenge the constitutionality of the state's voting law.

The groups sued over Missouri’s law that permits absentee voting only if voters provide an excuse for why they can’t vote in person. And those voters need to get their absentee ballots notarized in person before they can return them by mail.

The challengers contend that no one should be forced to risk their health and leave their homes in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill on June 4 allowing voters with health conditions that put them at risk of getting COVID-19 to cast an absentee ballot without notarization. But the lawsuit says the bill doesn’t go far enough and that no voter should have to risk his or her health in order to vote.

Last month, Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem threw the lawsuit out, ruling that the petitioners were asking for a “radical and permanent transformation of Missouri voting practices without the authorization of the Legislature.”

In ordering Beetem to reinstate the lawsuit, the Supreme Court said that the civil rights groups presented “a real, substantial, and presently existing controversy regarding the interpretation of Missouri’s absentee voting statute.”

“The petitioners seek to protect their right to vote guaranteed by the Missouri Constitution, and, given the upcoming August and November elections, their claims are ripe for judicial determination,” the court, in a nine-page opinion not attributable to any judge, wrote.

The ruling does not mean that the petitioners will ultimately prevail, merely that Beetem needs to address the issues.

Copyright 2020 KCUR 89.3

Dan was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. and moved to Kansas City with his family when he was eight years old. He majored in philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis and holds law and journalism degrees from Boston University. He has been an avid public radio listener for as long as he can remember – which these days isn’t very long… Dan has been a two-time finalist in The Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism, and has won multiple regional awards for his legal and health care coverage. Dan doesn't have any hobbies as such, but devours one to three books a week, assiduously works The New York Times Crossword puzzle Thursdays through Sundays and, for physical exercise, tries to get in a couple of rounds of racquetball per week.