Academic journal article Missouri Law Review

Is This Necessary? an Analysis of the Court's Relaxed Application of Anderson in Peters V. Johns

Academic journal article Missouri Law Review

Is This Necessary? an Analysis of the Court's Relaxed Application of Anderson in Peters V. Johns

Article excerpt


In recent years, policing tactics have undergone increased public scrutiny as Black Lives Matter (1) and other social activists have called attention to incidents where police officers have used lethal force. Reports, such as the United States Department of Justice's Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department, (2) have revealed deeply systemic policing practices that enforce poverty among minority groups by means of racially-targeted policing practices and subsequent penalties. Perhaps nowhere in the country are these issues more pressing upon the minds of voters than in the St. Louis, Missouri, community. These issues are what motivated St. Louisan Rachel Johns to seek the Missouri House of Representatives' seat for her North County community. These issues are what motivated her to engage a political system that she had long felt "failed her." Johns, as any who seeks to do the hard work of effecting positive community change, was met with adversity: Her candidacy was challenged because she failed to meet the formal election requirements of Missouri's Constitution. The courts agreed with her challenger, and Johns was told she must wait--wait to run until 2018, wait to pursue her and her supporters' political objectives, and wait for the uncertain tides of political momentum to change, perhaps unfavorably.

This Note analyzes the Supreme Court of Missouri's application of Anderson v. Celebrezze in one of Missouri's most recent candidacy requirement cases, Peters v. Johns. (3) It argues that the court underappreciated the burden imposed on Johns by its two-year voter registration requirement. (4) Part II discusses the facts and holding of Peters v. Johns. Part III provides the legal background to help understand the court's decision. Part IV discusses the court's reasoning in Peters v. Johns, while Part V argues for a more rigorous application of the Anderson test.


On February 4, 2015, Rachel Johns, a resident of the 76th District of the Missouri House of Representatives, registered to vote. (5) In 2016, Johns declared her candidacy for the Democratic Party's nominee for the 76th District, which was to be decided during the August 2, 2016, primary. (6) Johns filed the required paperwork with the Missouri Secretary of State's Office. (7) Johns stated under oath that she "will qualify" to hold the office of state representative as required by Missouri's Constitution. (8)

Joshua Peters, the incumbent, was also running in the Democratic primary for the 76th District. (9) Peters filed suit in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis challenging Johns's candidacy. (10) Peters challenged Johns's candidacy pursuant to Missouri Revised Statute section 115.526 because she would not have been a registered voter for two years prior to the November 8, 2016, general election. (11) Peters argued that Johns, therefore, could not meet the two-year durational voter registration requirement found in article III, section 4 of the Missouri Constitution. (12) Article III, section 4 requires a candidate to be "a qualified voter for two years" prior to the date of the general election. (13) Peters sought to have Johns removed from the Democratic primary ballot. (14)

Johns argued that the durational voter registration requirement was constitutionally invalid because its temporary disqualification of her candidacy was a penalty for engaging in First Amendment protected "expressive speech." (15) Johns stated that she had not registered to vote because to do so "would mean endorsing a system that had continued to fail her community." (16) Further, Johns argued that the durational voter registration requirement unconstitutionally burdened her voting rights and the voting rights of the residents of her legislative district. (17)

The Circuit Court for the City of St. Louis held that the durational voter registration requirement did not constitutionally violate the First or Fourteenth Amendment. …

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