JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Missouri must pay more than $1 million in legal fees for failing to follow federal voting laws, an appeals court has ruled.
A 2018 lawsuit filed by the St. Louis and Kansas City chapters of the League of Women Voters and the A. Philip Randolph Institute accused the state of failing to automatically update voter information after residents changed addresses, which violates the National Voter Registration Act.
The 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed on Monday a decision made more than a year ago by U.S. District Judge Brian Wimes that awarded attorneys fees in the case.
Sixteen lawyers involved in the case will receive $1.1 million and $27,484 in expenses related to the case.
Attorneys for the state argued the legal fees should be denied, or reduced to $286,862.
The National Voter Registration Act requires states to allow residents to register to vote while applying for a new or renewed driver’s license or state identification. The state is also required to update voter registration records whenever a resident changes addresses through the state motor vehicle agency.
As part of the settlement, the Missouri Department of Revenue agreed to redirect residents to the secretary of state’s voter registration website when they change their address through the revenue department. The agency will also change in-person and by-mail change-of-address transactions, which the League of Women Voters said would improve voter registration services.
The lawsuit claimed failing to enter changes of address into the voter registration database meant the votes of 200,000 people annually will not be counted because they moved from one county to another. Another 380,000 will have to cast provisional ballots after moving within a county, according to the complaint.
Anthony Rothert, legal director of the Missouri chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, worked on the case. He said the state could have avoided the legal fight if it had simply complied with the law.
Revenue officials also agreed to conduct audits, publish data and designate a National Voter Registration Act coordinator to ensure compliance with the settlement.