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August vote on KC police funding upheld by Missouri Supreme Court footnote

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(The Center Square) – The Missouri Supreme Court modified its own opinion Tuesday in an order for a new election in Kansas City regarding increasing the percentage of its budget earmarked for the police force.

Last week, Kansas City Democrat Mayor Quinton Lucas filed a motion accusing Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, a candidate for his party’s nomination for governor, of contempt. Lucas argued Ashcroft’s certification of Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s order to place Amendment 4 on the August ballot instead of the November general election ballot defied the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“Not only is the secretary’s action direct defiance of this court’s opinion, but it is also premature,” according to Lucas’ motion.

If approved by Missouri voters, Amendment 4 would increase from 20% to 25% the amount of its budget Kansas City must devote to the police force, the only department under state rule. In November 2022, more than 63% of Missouri voters approved the initiative.

Republicans touted Senate Bill 678 and Senate Joint Resolution 38, both sponsored by Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, as measures to stop a “defund the police” approach by Lucas. Parson, a former sheriff of Polk County, signed both into law.

However, Missouri Supreme Court Judge Paul Wilson’s majority opinion on April 30 ordered a new election and stated the ballot language was inaccurate, misleading and “an ‘irregularity’ of the highest conceivable magnitude.”

The court recommended the issue be placed on the November ballot and stated Ashcroft was “free to re-number Amendment No. 4 so as to avoid any duplication.”

“Nothing in this statute guides when such an election must take place,” the opinion stated. The Missouri Constitution allows the item to be submitted to the voters at the next general election or at a special election called by the governor prior to the general election, according to the opinion.

“Ordering a new election as part of the general election will minimize disruption and expense without imposing any undue delay,” the justices wrote.

After the Missouri Supreme Court sided with Lucas on April 30, the law allows for further motions to be filed. Lucas filed two motions, one to modify the ballot language and the other with the contempt allegation against Ashcroft. Both were dismissed on Tuesday and the court published its final order or mandate with the revised information on the August election.

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