Missouri House approves 60% vote requirement for constitutional amendments

On Feb. 2, 2023, the Missouri House of Representatives voted 108-50 for a constitutional amendment to require a 60% vote requirement for referred and citizen-initiated constitutional amendments. The amendment is titled House Joint Resolution 43 (HJR 43). Of the 108 members who voted for HJR 43, 107 were Republicans and one was a Democrat. Fifty Democrats voted against the amendment.

If the Senate approves HJR 43, it will go on the ballot for Missouri voters to decide on Nov. 5, 2024.

HJR 43 also amends Article 3, Section 50 of the Missouri Constitution to include text that says: “For purposes of this article, only citizens of the United States of America who are residents of the State of Missouri and who are properly registered to vote in the State of Missouri shall be considered legal voters.”

The ballot question, as currently written, would read: “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to: Allow only citizens of the United States to qualify as legal voters; Require initiative petitions proposing to amend the constitution to be reviewed by the voters in each congressional district; and require amendments to the constitution be approved by a sixty percent vote?”

As of 2022, in Missouri, constitutional amendments need to receive a simple majority (50%+1) vote at an election. This amendment would raise that vote requirement to 60%.

Rep. Mike Henderson (R), who sponsored the amendment, said: “I believe that the Missouri Constitution is a living document, not an ever-expanding document. And right now it has become an ever-expanding document.”

House Speaker Dean Plocher (R) also supports the amendment. “Our constitution is meant to be a sacred document, but is now one that has grown dramatically in size because of out-of-state interests that have spent millions of dollars here in Missouri to change our way of life,” he said.

Rep. David Tyson Smith (D) said that the language regarding citizen voting requirements would confuse voters. “We all know in this room that this is misleading language and is designed to confuse people,” he said. Travis Crum, professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, said that “Article VIII, Section 2 of the Missouri Constitution limits the right to vote to U.S. citizens.”

Rep. Peter Merideth (D) opposes the amendment, saying, “We’re attacking that fundamental power that lies in the hands of the people. That’s a slap in the face to the people in Missouri.”

Currently, when it comes to the voter approval of constitutional amendments, 38 states require a simple majority vote, while 11 states have some other type of requirement in place. Delaware is the only state that does not require any voter approval for constitutional amendments.

In 2022, three states had questions on the ballot that proposed a supermajority requirement for certain ballot measures. Arkansas voters rejected Issue 2, which would have required a 60% supermajority vote requirement for all constitutional amendments and voter-initiated state statutes. South Dakota voters rejected Amendment C in June of 2022, which would have required a 60% supermajority vote for ballot measures that would increase taxes. Arizona voters approved Proposition 132, which created a supermajority requirement for ballot measures that approve taxes (other measures continue to require a simple majority vote).

Currently, there are no certified ballot measures in Missouri for 2024. Historically, there have been 79 legislatively referred constitutional amendments on the ballot in Missouri between 1985 and 2022. Fifty-four (68%) have been approved and 25 (32%) have been defeated.

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