Citizens sue to block politicians’ dishonest ballot language on Dirty Missouri Amendment

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri citizens filed suit in Cole County Circuit Court today to block the dishonest and insufficient ballot language crafted by Missouri politicians to mislead voters about their radical Dirty Missouri gerrymandering amendment.

“A top House Republican warned his colleagues last week that SJR38 was riddled with ‘errors’. He is correct,” said Chuck Hatfield, attorney for the plaintiffs. “I understand why the politicians pushing this amendment may not want to talk about their true intentions, but the law requires a fair and accurate description of their proposed constitutional amendment to be sent to voters.”

The ballot summary language in SJR38 contains false assertions, misleading language, and conspicuous omissions that will mislead voters about the substance of the proposed amendment if it appears on a ballot.

Specifically:

  • Politicians claim their plan will “create” redistricting commissions, and that commissions would be “independent.” Both of these claims are false.
    • Legislators’ own documents acknowledge that their proposal simply renames currently existing commissions. Under the fair process approved by voters, the nonpartisan state demographer is tasked with crafting draft plans, which are then reviewed and may be modified by already-existing commissions.
    • The Dirty Missouri Amendment would remove the independent check on partisan influence from the voter-approved fair map rules, and give “all redistricting responsibility” to commissions made up of partisan appointees.
    • The politicians’ proposal would even give the state political parties new powers for selecting commissioners, and increase the number of partisan map-drawers in the process. Under the Dirty Missouri plan, the Senate Commission would double in size, and the House Commission would also grow in size.
        
  • The politicians’ summary asserts that future maps would be fair, competitive and protect voters of color, without informing voters that the proposed plan would weaken current voter-approved standards for each criteria.
    • The third bullet of the ballot summary language in SJR38 states that future maps would be based on “minority voter protection, compactness, competitiveness, fairness.” Compactness is already a current constitutional requirement for state legislative maps, and the Dirty Missouri Amendment would objectively weaken voter-approved rules for voters of color, competitiveness, and fairness.
    • The fine print of the Dirty Missouri plan would allow the most extreme partisan  gerrymander of any state legislative plan in the past four decades.
    • The passage of Amendment 1 in 2018 made Missouri a national leader in redistricting protections for communities of color; the politicians’ plan weakens the existing standard.
        
  • Politicians claim their plan will “ban all lobbyist gifts.” This is false.
    • Politicians are proposing a $5 reduction in gift limits as a smokescreen for their redistricting scheme, but their amendment includes exemptions for ways legislators would still be able to accept gifts from lobbyists.
       
  • Politicians wrote overly broad and misleading language to summarize their proposed $100 change to the contribution limit for state senate candidates.
    • The ballot language in SJR38 says the amendment would “[r]educe legislative campaign contribution limits”; however, the text of SJR38 would only change a single limit — the limit for state senate candidates — and their proposed change is a reduction of only $100.

Plaintiffs in the case are citizens from across Missouri who helped collect some of the more than 330,000 signatures that put the Clean Missouri initiative petition on the November 2018 ballot. Plaintiffs are:

  • Barbara Pippens of St. Louis, who collected more than 700 signatures,
  • John Bohney of Chesterfield, who collected more than 1,600 signatures,
  • Cheryl Hibbeler of O’Fallon, who collected almost 600 signatures, and was part of the 2011 House Apportionment Commission,
  • Rebecca Shaw of Columbia, who collected almost 200 signatures,
  • Bob Minor of Kansas City, who collected more than 500 signatures,
  • James Harmon of Kirksville, who collected almost 50 signatures,
  • Gene Davison of Springfield, a volunteer who has helped pass the Clean Missouri Amendment in 2018, and
  • Pat McBride of Cape Girardeau, who led a team of volunteers to help pass Clean Missouri in 2018.

A copy of the petition filed today may be found below.