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Voter presents ID at election

Ann Stephens presents a driver's license to a poll worker on Tuesday, July 11, 2017, while voting at St. Roch's School in the 28th ward of St. Louis for a special election to fill Mayor Lyda Krewson's seat. This is the first election since a new voter ID law was passed by Missouri. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY — Although the fight over Missouri’s voter photo ID law has reached the state’s highest court, legal wrangling over the controversial requirement may be far from over.

In arguments before the Missouri Supreme Court Thursday, Assistant Attorney General John Sauer said if the court rules that key provisions of the law must be rewritten, the revamped version likely will be challenged.

At issue is a 2016 decision by Missouri voters to amend the Missouri Constitution to allow lawmakers to create requirements for voters to identify themselves when voting at their polling place, including using photo IDs.

The resulting law directed voters to present a valid photo ID, or to sign a sworn statement attesting their identity and present some other form of identification in order to cast a regular ballot.

But Senior Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan jettisoned the sworn statement provision in 2018 following a lawsuit by Priorities USA, a Washington -based advocacy organization that called the requirements a “constitutional farce” that could disenfranchise 220,000 voters.

Priorities USA said the law creates undue burdens for voters who lack the required photo identification and could illegally suppress turnout, especially among so-called “vulnerable populations,” such as the elderly and minorities.

Callahan ruled the affidavit is contradictory and misleading and should no longer be used.

The state appealed, saying Callahan should have called for a rewrite of the affidavit, rather than tossing it completely out.

In arguments before the court, Priorities USA attorney Marc Elias called on the judges to stick with Callahan’s decision.

“The affidavit is confusing, misleading,” Elias said.

Supreme Court Judge Laura Denvir Stith said the affidavit was confusing to voters.

“You are forcing them to lie,” Stith said.

Thursday’s hearing is the second time the law has been before the court.

After Callahan’s decision, the high court was asked to weigh in on the ruling in the run-up to the 2018 election. The seven-member panel declined.

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