U.S. Eighth Circuit - The FindLaw 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Missouri Must Change Voter Registration System

A federal judge ordered Missouri to roll back its voter registration system because it violates the law.

In League of Women Voters of Missouri v. Ashcroft, Judge Brian Wimes said the current system could leave some voters with out-of-date registrations. That violates the National Voter Registration Act.

The decision will be effective immediately to avoid problems in the November elections. The judge said it was an extreme measure, but right for the time.

Driver's Licenses

The League of Women Voters had complained that driver's license holders could change their mailing addresses online or on the phone, but not their voter registrations. They had to do that in person.

As a result, the plaintiffs said, some people could have problems at the polls if they didn't change their addresses in person.

The judge told Missouri to revert to the prior system, which did not have the problem.

"While the Court is cognizant of the extreme nature of preliminary injunctive relief, the circumstances of this case suggest the public's interest in the right to vote, and ensuring that state processes follow federal law, outweigh the public costs for the Defendants to comply with a preliminary injunction," he wrote.

"Extreme Nature"

The National Voter Registration Act requires states to give residents the option to register to vote whenever they apply for a driver's license or state identification.

The Women Voters said the new system could cause as many as 200,000 people to lose their voting privileges because of the change-of-address issue.

The judge said the state must notify all individuals who used the online or phone system since August 2017. They must have the "ready opportunity" to update their voter registrations, he said.

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