Judge strikes down Cleaner Missouri ballot summary; state moves quickly to seek appeal

Judge with gavel at desk

Cole County Judge Pat Joyce has ordered the ballot summary in a Cleaner Missouri legislative redistricting plan must change. In a judgment issued Monday, Joyce says the Amendment 3 ballot description is “misleading, unfair, and insufficient” and therefore in violation of state law.

The Republican-dominated Missouri Legislature passed the proposed Constitutional amendment, SJR38, this year, and wrote the ballot summary. Under the plan, bipartisan commissions would redraw districts, instead of a nonpartisan demographer. It also slightly lowers campaign gifts.

The measure was in response to Clean Missouri redistricting changes passed by 62% of voters in 2018. Some lawmakers said voters did not know what they were voting for when they approved Clean Missouri – they just saw the political donations portion.

Joyce says the summary “fails to inform voters that adopting the measure would eliminate the legislative redistricting rules Missourians adopted two years ago to combat political gerrymandering and replace them with a process similar in substance to the one they just voted to abandon.” She says the legislature’s summary instead “seeks to entice voters” to adopt the measure by “misleadingly overstating” a modest $5 reduction in allowable lobbyist gifts and a $100 reduction to Senate campaign contribution limits.

“Where, as here, the legislature seeks to override the recent, clearly expressed will of Missouri voters on a matter as important as redistricting, the law requires that voters be plainly informed what they are being asked to consider,” Joyce says.

During a court hearing this month, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office said the ballot language is fair and the lobbyist gift restrictions portion is written for ordinary voters to understand. It said the Legislature was required to craft the summary in 50 words or less.

The state has requested an appeal in the Missouri Court of Appeals at the end of next week.

The deadline to get revised language on the November ballot would be sometime in September.

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