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Missouri Lawmakers Are Once Again Targeting the Ballot Initiative Process

Created: 06 February, 2023
2 min read

The Missouri House approved a proposal Thursday that would make it harder for citizens to amend the state’s constitution via ballot initiative. The resolution would raise the vote threshold to pass constitutional changes from a simple majority to 60%.

This has been a continued effort by state lawmakers. The threat to the ballot initiative process is so serious that in 2022 a two-thirds vote requirement had to be stopped by a filibuster in the state Senate.

The resolution now heads to the Senate where majority leadership has expressed support, suggesting a repeat of 2022 is likely.

Missouri House Speaker Dean Plocher says changes to the state constitution should not come “willy nilly” and pointed to “out of state money and interests that have very little connection to Missouri” as justification for support.

Opponents of the bill, like House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, say the “citizens of Missouri have used the initiative petition process for so many things. And people enjoy that process. They enjoy being a part of the conversation.”

Missouri voters have used the ballot initiative process to pass several issues, including anti-gerrymandering and anti-corruption amendments to the state’s constitution. Raising the threshold would make it harder for reform campaigns to get off the ground.

The difference between a simple majority and a 60 percent threshold is exponential for any campaign. Reaching the number of people it would take to get those votes would mean more money, more people on the ground, and more resources needed from campaigns.

The Missouri legislative proposal could outright deter some future nonpartisan election reform efforts at a time when election reform is not only in high demand, but is also winning one campaign after another each election cycle.

The irony is that if the resolution is approved by the Missouri Senate, it would then go before voters where a simple majority can adopt it.

Similar proposals have gone before voters in other states. In 2022, South Dakota and Arkansas voters overwhelmingly rejected attempts by state lawmakers to make the ballot initiative process more cumbersome for votes and campaigns.

Attacks on the citizen initiative process have grown and expanded exponentially over the past few years. The anti-corruption group RepresentUs released a report in 2022 that found that 11 states have proposed over 60 laws and resolutions since 2017.

Twenty-nine of these legislative proposals were proposed in Missouri alone.