Northwest Missourian Opinion

Republicans are attempting to make Missouri a less democratic state by making constitutional reform more difficult.

House Resolution 20 would make it more difficult to amend the Missouri Constitution. As of right now, it only requires a simple majority of voters to amend the constitution. H.R. 20 aims to increase the threshold to 67%. This measure passed in the House 111-46. 

This reform is a clear attack on Missouri citizens’ ability to control their own lives. Last year Missouri expanded Medicaid, giving citizens who needed medical insurance a chance to go to the doctor. This expansion would have never happened at the state level as Republicans have made it clear that they have no intention of expanding government assistance despite being in a pandemic. By putting the vote in the hands of the people who will benefit from this measure, you allow the people’s voices to be heard.  

This measure only passed with a simple majority of 53.25% of Missouri voters, according to Ballotpedia. If H.R. 20 becomes a law, this bill would not reach the new 67% threshold. This constitutional amendment is a way to suppress voters. 

Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St.Louis, argues this same point

"It's a dirty exercise of a legislature that the people don't trust, taking away the people's power to exercise authority over us at the ballot," Merideth said. 

Not only would this legislation increase the percentage of votes needed to pass, it would also increase the number of statewide signatures to get a proposal on the ballot in the first place. As of right now, in order to get on the ballot you need 8% of registered voters to sign a petition. This new law would push that to 10% of voters, according to KMOX. 

While this may seem like a small increase, it is significant. As of July 1, 2019, U.S. Census reported the population of Missouri was 6,137,428. Eight percent of that is 490,994. If the number of signatures moved to 10%, you would need to get 613,742 people or an extra 122,748 people to sign your petition. 

Getting signatures is not an easy task either. In 2018, Alice Barber stood out in front of a Springfield DMV for three hours in the snow trying to get signatures for an initiative. Barber told her experience to the Missouri House elections committee prior to a vote on the H.R. 20. 

“I got about 15 signatures,” Barber said. “The ballot initiative process is already difficult. Volunteers spend long hours, often in adverse weather conditions, collecting 10 or 20 signatures at a time.”

Medicaid expansion is not the only bill to make and pass the constitutional amendment process in Missouri. Missouri’s official website has a history of all of the potential amendments sent out to voters. In 2018, medical marijuana was legalized and uses the tax dollars created from this new industry to fund health care for Missouri veterans. The change came with 65% of voters approving it, according to Ballotpedia. 

In 2016, the state voted on whether or not to add a new tax on cigarettes and establish limits to elected officials and their related parties. A bill that would be hard to pass due to the clear conflict of interest. 

If this bill passes in the Senate and the governor's office, it does face one last hurdle. It will go to the people because it is a constitutional amendment. If it does pass, with a simple majority because it’s not law yet, it might be the last amendment to ever be voted on by the people of Missouri, and sadly, it will probably happen because Missouri is a deep red state.

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