With absentee voting already underway, attorneys for civil rights groups urged the Missouri Supreme Court on Oct. 6 to ease requirements for those concerned about the coronavirus by allowing anyone to vote remotely without needing to notarize their ballots.

The case, brought by the NAACP and League of Women Voters, is similar to those being pursued elsewhere, as voting-rights advocates argue that states should be making it easier for people to vote from home during the pandemic that has killed more than 210,000 in the U.S.

Missouri did relax its absentee voting laws and created a new option for mail-in voting for the 2020 elections. The new laws allow anyone to cast a mail-in ballot, so long as the envelope is notarized.

But “during this health crisis, the law doesn’t do enough to protect Missourians’ right to vote,” Sophia Lakin, a New York attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, argued to Missouri’s Supreme Court judges. “Voters are saddled with a notary requirement that forces them to choose between risking their health, and those of their loved ones, and their right to vote.”

Lakin urged the court to adopt a simpler standard: “Count all ballots this election regardless of notarization.”

Missouri is one of nine states – along with Alabama, Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Wisconsin – that require voters to have a notary or witness signature along with their mailed-in ballots, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Though South Carolina’s witness requirement had been suspended, the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated it on Monday while a lawsuit over it proceeds.

A total of 544 ballots were rejected during the August primary for failure to have the envelope notarized, according to the secretary of state’s office.

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