Missouri, voting rights groups settle address-change lawsuit

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Missouri residents could soon find it easier to update their addresses for voter registration under a settlement that voter advocates reached Thursday,Nov. 21, with the state’s Revenue Department.

The League of Women Voters of Missouri and the Kansas City-area chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, an AFL-CIO constituency, filed a lawsuit in April 2018. The lawsuit alleges the Department of Revenue was violating federal voter laws by not automatically updating voter rolls with address changes and subsequently not providing required registration information to some voters.

The lawsuit also blames the secretary of state for not ensuring federal voter laws are followed.

Under the settlement, the department pledged to update its website within 60 days to automatically redirect users who change their address information to the Secretary of State’s site to do the same for voter registration. The voter registration site will automatically populate with new address information provided to the Revenue Department.

“Each year, one of the major causes of disenfranchisement in the state results from when Missouri voters appear at the polls and find out that they are not registered at their current address,” League of Women Voters of Missouri President Evelyn Maddox said in a statement. “These improvements to DOR’s voter registration practices will help reduce the number of qualified voters being shut out of the political process.”

The Secretary of State’s Office downplayed the changes.

“I don’t know that any voter will notice any difference,” spokeswoman Maura Browning said in a statement. “For us, these are back-end programming changes that ensure what a person entered on DOR’s website is prepopulated on our website.”

She also pushed back on allegations that the office didn’t do enough to oversee the Department of Revenue’s compliance with federal voter laws. She said that the Secretary of State “does not have authority to mandate changes, absent a court order.”

The department did not immediately comment on the settlement to The Associated Press on Thursday.

The changes are set to take effect as Missouri prepares for the 2020 presidential election and a race for governor between Republican Gov. Mike Parson and Democratic Auditor Nicole Galloway.

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