FILE - Voting, poll, voting booth, election

(The Center Square) – Missouri is preparing ballots for the November election after the last legal challenge ended last week, but its new voter ID law, praised by the Heritage Foundation, faces a lawsuit.

The Heritage Foundation ranked Missouri fourth out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in its Election Integrity Scorecard, an evaluation of state election laws and regulations. But House Bill 1878, a 58-page omnibus elections bill signed into law by Republican Gov. Mike Parson in June and which took effect in late August, faces legal challenges. One suit claims the voter ID law violates the fundamental right to vote and equal protection clause under the Missouri Constitution. It was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition on behalf of the NAACP and the League of Women Voters.

The Heritage Foundation awarded Missouri 80 out of a possible 100 points in its scorecard, including 18 of 20 for voter ID implementation. Only Tennessee (84 points), Georgia (83) and Alabama (82) had higher scores.

The only Heritage Foundation voter ID standard Missouri failed to meet was prohibiting the use of an affidavit by exception by the voter to a photo ID requirement. Under the new Missouri law, a voter without a valid government-issued ID may cast a provisional ballot and they must return to the polling place before 7 p.m. with a proper ID for the ballot to be counted. Or, the voter’s signature must match the signature on file with the election authority.

“This law increases election security and transparency, and instills confidence that a vote will count if cast,” Missouri Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said in a statement when the law took effect. “This is about being proactive rather than reactive – we want to look at coming elections and make sure it is hard to cheat but easy to vote.”

The only area Missouri didn’t score well in was verification of citizenship. The Heritage Foundation awarded points if a state uses the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlement (SAVE) program to identify non-citizens who register to vote and if state election officials utilize state and federal jury information to verify citizenship.

“HUGE NEWS,” Ashcroft posted on social media when the Heritage Foundation posted the scores in late August. “Our elections are easy to vote in and hard to cheat in.”

The legislation also allows two weeks of no-excuse in-person absentee voting.

"As a reminder, however, even the best laws are not worth much if responsible officials do not enforce them rigorously," the Heritage Foundation report stated. "It is up to the citizens of each state to make sure that their elected and appointed public officials do just that."

Staff Reporter

Joe Mueller covers Missouri for The Center Square. After seven years of reporting for daily newspapers in Illinois and Missouri, he spent the next 30 years in public relations serving non-profit organizations and as a strategic communications consultant.