University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Missouri NAACP v. Missouri VR-MO-0062
Docket / Court 20AC-CC00169 ( State Court )
State/Territory Missouri
Case Type(s) Election/Voting Rights
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Post-WalMart decisions on class certification
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU National (all projects)
Case Summary
This putative class-action lawsuit was filed on April 17, 2020 in the state court of Missouri for the Circuit Court of Cole County by the Missouri NAACP, the League of Women Voters of Missouri, and three individual plaintiffs. Represented by lawyers from the ACLU Foundation of Missouri, ACLU ... read more >
This putative class-action lawsuit was filed on April 17, 2020 in the state court of Missouri for the Circuit Court of Cole County by the Missouri NAACP, the League of Women Voters of Missouri, and three individual plaintiffs. Represented by lawyers from the ACLU Foundation of Missouri, ACLU National, and the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, they brought this suit against the state of Missouri, the Missouri Secretary of State John Ashcroft, the Jackson County Prosecutor, the Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners, the Jackson County Election Board, and the Board of Election Commissioners for the City of St. Louis. The complaint argued that Missouri law mandated the expansion of mail-in absentee voting for 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and prohibited the requirement of notary seals to vote absentee. The suit argued that Missouri statutory law already provided for plaintiffs to vote absentee without notary seals if they are reasonably afraid of contracting the virus. They also argued that mandating notary seals was a violation of the Missouri constitution's equal protection clause, that refusal to allow some but not others to vote absentee was a violation of the state constitution's equal protection clause, and that failure to guarantee absentee voting to all would violate the state constitution's equal protection clause insofar as different jurisdictions within the state said that fear of the virus was an acceptable excuse to vote absentee while others did not. The plaintiffs sought injunctive and declaratory relief, asking for clarification as to the Missouri statute that provided for absentee ballots.

On May 5, the defendants submitted a motion to dismiss. The Clearinghouse does not have access to that motion. However, thirteen days later the court granted the motion to dismiss on all counts. First, the court found that the plaintiffs' interpretation of the Missouri statute would allow any person who feared contracting any illness to cast an absentee ballot, which they were unwilling to grant. Second, the court dismissed the equal protection argument with respect to individual jurisdictions interpreting the statute because the plaintiffs did not allege that certain jurisdictions were in actuality interpreting this statute differently. The court dismissed the plaintiffs' third claim by simply holding that the Missouri constitution does not guarantee a right to vote absentee. In dismissing the plaintiffs' fourth claim, the court argued that, because there is no right to vote absentee, there must not be a right to vote absentee without a notary authorization. Finally, the court also denied class certification and found that the plaintiff organizations lacked standing.

The plaintiffs immediately appealed the decision to the Missouri Supreme Court. That court delivered its opinion unanimously on June 23. The Missouri Supreme Court found that the petition did in fact state claims upon which relief could be granted. The plaintiffs abandoned their second claim for relief, but on every other claim the Missouri Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's opinion and remanded.

The case is ongoing as of August 12, 2020.

Jack Hibbard - 08/12/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Voting
Voting access
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Special Case Type
Appellate Court is initial court
Voting
Election administration
Voter qualifications
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) Board of Election Commissioners for the City of St. Louis
Jackson County Election Board
Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners
Missouri Secretary of State John Ashcroft
State of Missouri
Plaintiff Description NAACP Missouri, League of Women Voters Missouri, and three individual plaintiffs
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU National (all projects)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Pending
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 04/17/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  Case Summaries for June 15, 2020
Missouri Courts
Date: Jun. 15, 2020
By: Missouri Courts (Missouri Courts Judicial Branch of Government)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Missouri State Conference of the NAACP v. State of Missouri
https://www.brennancenter.org/
By: The Brennan Center for Justice (The Brennan Center)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
20AC-CC00169 (State Supreme Court)
VR-MO-0062-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/17/2020
General Documents
Class Action Petition for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief
VR-MO-0062-0001.pdf | Detail
Date:
Source: State Court Website
Order and Judgment
VR-MO-0062-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/18/2020
Source: State Court Website
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cole County
VR-MO-0062-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/23/2020
Source: State Court Website
show all people docs
Judges Sauer, Dean John Court not on record show/hide docs
VR-MO-0062-0002
Plaintiff's Lawyers DeLoach, Kayla (Missouri) show/hide docs
VR-MO-0062-0001
Hauss, Brian M. (New York) show/hide docs
VR-MO-0062-0001
Ho, Dale E. (New York) show/hide docs
VR-MO-0062-0001
Lakin, Sophia L. (New York) show/hide docs
VR-MO-0062-0001
Lieberman, Denise D. (Missouri) show/hide docs
VR-MO-0062-0001
Rothert, Anthony [Tony] E. (Missouri) show/hide docs
VR-MO-0062-0001
Steffan, Jessie (Missouri) show/hide docs
VR-MO-0062-0001
Wilcox, Gillian R. (Missouri) show/hide docs
VR-MO-0062-0001

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