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Court Says Missouri Ethics, Redistricting Initiative To Stay On November Ballot

Samuel King
KCUR 89.3
A special three-judge panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals hears arguments on Clean Missouri initiative.

Updated Sept. 24 with appeal denied — A ballot measure that would change Missouri's ethics laws and redistricting process will go in front of voters in November, an appeals court panel ruled Friday. And the state Supreme Court confirmed as much Monday in denying an appeal.  

The appeals court decision comes on the day that elections officials start mailing absentee ballots to military and overseas voters, and a few days before the Nov. 6 ballot must be certified.

According to the appeals court panel, the ballot measure is not unconstitutional as a lower court ruled because all of the issues address a single purpose: regulating the General Assembly "to limit the influence of partisan or other special interests."

The organization that backs Amendment 1, Clean Missouri, said in a statement that it was glad "the judges saw through the frivolous arguments of the lobbyists who are terrifed" to let it go to a vote. An attorney for one of the plaintiffs, Ed Greim, didn't immediately respond to request for comment.

This is a breaking story and will be updated.

Original story from Sept. 20, 2018: 

The Western District of the Missouri Court of Appeals heard arguments Thursday afternoon on whether a ballot measure that would change ethics laws should remain on the November ballot.

The three judges in the case promised to rule quickly because of two key deadlines: elections officials begin to mail military and overseas absentee ballots on Friday and Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft must certify the Nov. 6 ballot by Tuesday.

A Cole County judge had found the so-called Clean Missouri initiative unconstitutional, in part because it addressed too many topics. The appeals court stayed that ruling until it could make its determination. Clean Missouri would change the state’s system for drawing legislative seats to one based more on parties’ share of elections. It would also limit gifts from lobbyists, change the waiting period for ex-lawmakers to become lobbyists and make lawmakers subject to the state's open-records law.

Attorneys for both sides cited the 1990 Missouri Supreme Court opinion in the Missourians to Protect Initiative Process V. Blunt case. The court struck down a ballot measure because it was too broad. But attorneys representing Clean Missouri said this measure should stand because its provisions all touch the Missouri General Assembly.

“The fact that we may have a provision that touches on the other branch, doesn’t invalidate the single purpose,” said Chuck Hatfield, an attorney for Clean Missouri. “It’s not a game of Operation where we’re trying to reach in and grab a single purpose and if we touch the sides the buzzer goes off and the game’s over.”

Opponents argued the language in the initiative could be misleading to voters and goes too far in changing how state legislators are elected.

“The heart of it is whether we’re essentially logrolling to get something past the voters about redistricting that they may not be informed is on the ballot,” said Todd Graves, attorney for the plaintiffs challenging the initiative and state chairman of the Missouri Republican Party. “I think it’s important. It’s in the constitution. It would fundamentally change the way we elect our representatives in this state.”

The case could end up in the hands of the Missouri Supreme Court on appeal. It declined to hear the case before Thursday’s appeals court hearing.

Samuel King is the Missouri politics and government reporter at KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter: @SamuelKingNews

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