Missouri judge upholds Amendment 3 ballot summary

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September 15, 2012


By Bailey Ludlam

JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri: On Monday, September 10, Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem upheld the ballot summary for Missouri Amendment 3.[1]

The measure would grant the governor the power to appoint 4 persons to the Appellate Judicial Commission, the body responsible for choosing nominees for the Court of Appeals and the Missouri Supreme Court. The governor currently has the power to choose three of the seven total members.[2]

Specifically, the ballot summary of the measure was under scrutiny. Supporters of the measure argued that the summary, provided by the Missouri Secretary of State, was misleading to voters.[3] State Senator Jim Lembke, who sponsored the measure, stated about the Missouri Secretary of State's measure summary, "She misuses her power to manipulate the process, and I believe that this is more evidence that she's been a dishonest broker of partisan politics."

However, Secretary of State spokesman Ryan Hobart stated about controversies surrounding 2012 ballot measure summaries, "This office has always followed our legal obligation to provide Missourians with fair and sufficient summaries of ballot initiatives, and this summary is no different."[3]

The court ruled in favor of the secretary's office. Judge Beetem described the summary as "sufficient and fair as a matter of law." Beetem added that "there is no question that a better summary statement could have been submitted."[1]

Following the ruling, the state office said, "We are pleased with the Cole County Circuit Court’s decision today regarding Constitutional Amendment 3 (SJR 51). The secretary of state's office has a legal obligation to provide Missourians with fair and sufficient summaries of ballot measures. The judge’s decision supports our position that the summary drafted by our office meets that legal standard."[4]

The ballot text reads:

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to change the current nonpartisan selection of supreme court and court of appeals judges to a process that gives the governor increased authority to: appoint a majority of the commission that selects these court nominees; and appoint all lawyers to the commission by removing the requirement that the governor's appointees be nonlawyers?[5]

See also