FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jefferson City, MO (March 20, 2020) – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, Dēmos, and ACLU of Missouri issued a letter demanding that Missouri Governor Michael Parson and Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft extend the voter registration deadline for the newly rescheduled June 2, 2020 Municipal Elections to May 6, 2020, as required by state law.
Governor Parson issued an Executive Order on March 18, ordering the previously scheduled April 7 Municipal Elections to be postponed until June 2 in light of the public health risks associated with the COVID-19 outbreak. The order also extended the deadlines to request and cast absentee ballots, by mail and in person, to correspond with the new election date.
However, the Order inexplicably failed to extend the voter registration deadline. Under Missouri law, voters have until 5:00 p.m. “on the fourth Wednesday prior to the election” to register, which would be Wednesday, May 6 to correspond with the new June 2 election date. The Missouri Constitution further requires that all otherwise-eligible voters who are “registered within the time prescribed by law” be allowed to vote in each election.
“Missouri law could not be clearer – the new June 2 election date requires a May 6 voter registration deadline,” said Ezra Rosenberg, Co-Director of the Voting Rights Project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “It is inexcusable that Governor Parson would deprive Missouri citizens of the opportunity to participate fully in these elections at a time of serious public health crisis.”
“The new election date clearly requires that all deadlines associated with the election, including the voter registration deadline, be aligned as well,” said Denise Lieberman, General Counsel to the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, a coalition of several dozen nonpartisan organizations that advocates for Missouri voters’ rights. “Failure to extend the registration deadline when the other election deadlines have been extended will only sow confusion and disenfranchisement among voters who understand that they are eligible to vote if they register by the fourth Wednesday before an election. That deadline must apply here. We call on the Governor to amend his order accordingly.”
The voter registration deadline for the original April 7 election date was March 11. If this deadline is left unchanged, voters who register by May 6 will be disenfranchised in the June 2 elections, despite being legally eligible to vote in that election under Missouri law.
“When an election is moved, Missouri law demands that the voter registration deadline must move with it,” said Naila Awan, Senior Counsel at Dēmos. “The circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak are extraordinary, but we must not compound the coronavirus crisis by disenfranchising voters.”
“In a state where the legislature is actively attempting to disenfranchise voters with unconstitutional ID laws, we must not inflict further harm by ignoring current voter protections set in state statute,” said Luz María Henríquez, Executive Director of the ACLU of Missouri. “We must be especially vigilant in protecting our vital and fundamental rights in times of crisis.”