Missouri judge rewrites ballot title for Amendment 3 that would repeal 2018 redistricting amendment

On August 17, 2020, Cole County Circuit Court Judge Patricia S. Joyce ruled against the ballot title drafted by the Missouri General Assembly for Amendment 3, the Redistricting Process and Criteria, Lobbying, and Campaign Finance Amendment. The lawsuit against the ballot title was filed by petition circulators for Clean Missouri, the campaign that sponsored Missouri Amendment 1 (2018). The lawsuit argued that the ballot title of Amendment 3 was misleading because it did not mention the elimination of the nonpartisan demographer, which was the office established by Amendment 1 to conduct legislative redistricting in the state. Missouri Amendment 1 (2018) was approved with 62% of the vote. Besides establishing the nonpartisan demographer, the amendment also prohibited the state legislature from passing laws allowing for unlimited campaign contributions to candidates for the state legislature and set campaign contribution limits for legislative candidates and candidate committees.

In Joyce’s ruling, she said, “While [Amendment 3] proposes several other changes to Article Ill of the Constitution, all of them pale in comparison to the scope and magnitude of undoing a recent voter mandate to change Missouri’s legislative redistricting rules. The ‘central purpose’ or ‘primary objective’ of [Amendment 3] is to effectively repeal Amendment 1. Accordingly, the summary statement must alert voters to that change in some fashion. Instead, the General Assembly’s statement does not mention the change at all. It is insufficient, unfair, and must be rewritten.” State officials requested an appeal in the Missouri Court of Appeals.

The original ballot title read:
“Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:
• Ban all lobbyist gifts to legislators and their employees;
• Reduce legislative campaign contribution limits; and

• Create citizen-led independent bipartisan commissions to draw state legislative districts based on one person, one vote, minority voter protection, compactness, competitiveness, fairness and other criteria?”

The new title drafted by Judge Joyce reads:
“Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:
• Repeal rules for drawing state legislative districts approved by voters in November 2018 and replace them with rules proposed by the legislature;
• Lower the campaign contribution limit for senate candidates by $100; and

• Lower legislative gift limits from $5 to $0, with exemptions for some lobbyists?”

Missouri Amendment 3 was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 38 (SJR 38) on January 8, 2020. On February 10, the state Senate passed SJR 38 in a vote of 22-9. Of the 23 Republicans in the Senate, 22 voted in favor of SJR 38, one voted against it. All eight Democrats voted against it. On May 13, the state House passed SJR 38 in a vote of 98-56 with eight absent. House Republicans voted 97-16 for SJR 38, and House Democrats voted 1-40.

Fair Missouri is leading the campaign in support of Amendment 3. According to the last campaign finance reports submitted on June 30, the campaign had raised over $246,000. Clean Missouri is registered in opposition to the amendment and has raised $1.3 million. In 2018, Clean Missouri and an allied committee raised $5.63 million.

Missouri Senator Dan Hegeman (R), the sponsor of the amendment in the legislature, said, “This would give the voters another opportunity to weigh in on this monumental change that could have ramifications for years, if not generations.”

In November, Missouri voters will also be deciding Amendment 1, the State Executive Term Limits Amendment, which would limit the lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state auditor, and attorney general, along with the governor and state treasurer, to two terms of office.

Between 1996 and 2018, an average of seven measures appeared on the ballot in Missouri during even-numbered election years. A total of 82 measures appeared on statewide ballots during that period with 63% approved.

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