Challenge to Amendment 3 ballot title heard in Cole County Circuit Court
JEFFERSON CITY — Lawyers representing citizens across Missouri argued in Cole County Circuit Court Friday that the proposed ballot title wording of Amendment 3 — which would repeal large portions of the Clean Missouri amendment — is "deceptive."
The ballot title challenge takes issue with all three bullet points presented in the ballot summary.
Those three bullet points are:
- "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 central argument from the ballot title change centered around the omission from the ballot title that the nonpartisan state demographer approved in 2018 would be eliminated under this proposal.
The nonpartisan state demographer was approved in 2018's Amendment One, known as Clean Missouri, to draw state legislative district lines going forward.
In response, the defense pointed out the implementation of the nonpartisan state demographer was not present on the Clean Missouri Ballot title in 2018.
"Go back and look at the summary statement done by the secretary of state that was part of Amendment 1 when it was passed," assistant Missouri attorney general Jeremiah Morgan said in Friday's hearing. "With 100 words, if it was so essential, with 100 words, there was in fact no reference at all to the state demographer in that summary."
After the hearing, "No on Amendment 3" campaign director Sean Soendker-Nicholson said the 2018 ballot summary was clear.
"The very first bullet on every  ballot where the amendment passed by a 2:1 margin with support in every corner of the state said that this is about redistricting and making the process more fair," Soendker-Nicholson said.
The attorneys against the ballot language also argued the proposed measure would not eliminate lobbyist gifts from family members and extended family members, thus rendering the phrase "ban all lobbyist gifts" deceptive.
The defense maintained that the average voter does not equate family relationships as lobbyist relationships.
Finally, the attorneys against the ballot language argued the ballot measure would not reduce legislative campaign contribution limits for over 80% of legislators and does not create any new commissions, but instead changes the responsibilities of existing commissions.
Morgan also argued the drastic changes to the responsibilities of existing commissions is, in effect, creating new commissions.
Soendker-Nicholson said the ballot language must be finalized in September.
The state did not make further comments beyond what was said in court.