Legislation to undermine the citizen initiative petition failed to come to the Senate floor for a vote before the session ended on May 12. The Missouri House approved a conference committee substitute to HJR 43 on May 9. Final passage would have put the question on a November 2024 ballot (unless the Governor calls a special election).
The League believes the language in this proposed ballot measure was deceptive. It asked, "Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to allow only U.S. citizens to vote on measures?" but non-citizens already can't vote in Missouri. The conference committee added "ensure disabled individuals have access to ballot" but included no funding to remove obstacles for disabled voters. Voters would have to read down to the fourth bullet to see that it would raise the proposed threshold for approval of a constitutional amendment from a simple majority to 57 percent.
Click here for analysis of legislative attempts to undermine citizen initiative petitions that Danielle Lang of the Campaign Legal Center shared at the LWVMO convention. "There's a very cynical attempt to hide what this bill actually would do," she said, stressing the need to fight back with education. "We know that when voters understand pro-voter initiatives and anti-voter initiatives, they overwhelmingly in red and blue states and purple states ... vote for democracy."
LWVMO President Marilyn McLeod and other League members testified against HJR 43. McLeod says this shouldn’t be a partisan question: "The IP has worked for both conservative and liberal causes which shows that it is a valuable and valued part of our heritage and works for Missourians of all different points of view."
"The people resort to the initiative petition, especially regarding changes to the Constitution, only because they feel their voice isn’t being heard in Jefferson City," she stressed.
Recent ballot measures to allow the sale of recreational marijuana amendment and expand Medicaid expansion both passed with 53% of the vote.The Hancock amendment limiting tax increases was approved by just 55% of Missouri voters in 1980.
In more than a century, just 29 citizen-initiated constitutional amendments have ever been approved compared to 133 of the 246 propositions from the General Assembly. Many more proposed citizen initiatives never got enough signatures to make it to the ballot.
The League believes responsible government should be responsive to the will of the people. McLeod did suggest changes to simplify the initiative petition process, to make it more efficient for county clerks and election officials to check petition signatures, and to require clear and not misleading ballot language.
Click here to read a guest column by LWVMO President Marilyn McLeod published in the Feb. 26 Kansas City Star.