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Expert Available: New Voter ID Laws Could Prevent Citizens from Voting, MU Expert Says

In published opinion article, professor argues that new and old laws related to voting IDs could contribute to disenfranchisement.

September 24th, 2012

Story Contact: Nathan Hurst, 573-882-6217,

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – In a recently published opinion article in the National Bar Association Magazine, S. David Mitchell, an associate professor of law at the University of Missouri School of Law, says that new voter identification laws and changes to voter registration rules in several states could deprive citizens of the right to vote, ultimately leading to disenfranchisement and depriving some of full citizenship.

“These initiatives, which are intended to protect the ballot, have the potential of denying citizens who have had no problems voting in the past from exercising a fundamental right,” Mitchell said. “The right to vote symbolizes not only membership in our society, but also represents participation. If these laws are enacted and deprive someone of the right to vote, it is another step toward disenfranchisement for that individual.”

Newly proposed voter identification laws would require voters to present state-issued photo identification in order to vote. In his published opinion in the National Bar Association Magazine, Mitchell said that while there may be no discriminatory intent to suppress the vote, the right to vote is far too valuable to permit the slightest possibility of suppression.

Mitchell, an expert on laws that restrict convicted felons from voting and the collateral consequences of felony convictions, has studied the impact of these laws on ex-offenders and their families. Mitchell also has explored the concept of citizenship and the impact on individual and community citizenship when individuals are marginalized. He has published his findings in the Fordham Urban Law Review.

Mitchell joined the University of Missouri School of Law faculty in 2006.  Before a two-year position at the University of Colorado at Boulder as a Scholar in Residence, Professor Mitchell served as a law clerk for Andre M. Davis of the U.S. District Court of Maryland. Recently, he also served as a Supreme Court Fellow for the Missouri Supreme Court exploring ex-offender reentry across the state.