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Resolution to change how voters alter Missouri Constitution in hands of Senate

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(The Center Square) – A resolution to change how Missouri voters approve constitutional amendments was returned to the Senate for possible consideration this week.

Currently, any constitutional amendment can be approved by a simple majority. By a vote of 103 to 48, the House approved Senate Joint Resolution 74, a ballot proposal to require voters to pass constitutional amendments by a majority and five of the eight congressional districts. The proposal would be placed on the November ballot or at a special election to be called by Republican Gov. Mike Parson.

Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, a candidate for her party’s nomination for secretary of state and sponsor of the resolution, wasn’t sure when it would be brought to a vote in the Senate. Last year, a similar bill failed to advance out of the Senate.

“We still have several weeks left in the session and it’s important that we deliberate and are able to get to a resolution on a number of important issues,” Coleman told reporters last Thursday during an end-of-the week press conference.

House Democrats criticized the resolution and its amendments, including a section stating only legal residents of Missouri and citizens of the U.S. to be eligible to vote. Those restrictions are in state law, but not the constitution, Coleman said.

“If this does go to the ballot and people have to come out and vote, it’s going to be just like it was for (defeating) ‘Right to Work’ and when we passed Medicaid (expansion),” Rep. Donna Barringer, D-St. Louis, told reporters on Thursday. “When you talk about taking people’s jobs away, taking their medical care away and now taking their vote away, they will show up in droves. And this may be a regret the Republicans will have because people are going to be angry. And when you’re angry, you vote.”

Republicans said the measure would provide geographic fairness.

“I think it’s an extremely important safeguard,” said Rep. Alex Riley, R-Springfield, and handler of the resolution in the House. “We’re talking about the state constitution. This is more important than any individual politician, more important than any individual. We’re talking about the most fundamental document that governs our state and we want to make sure that when changes are being made, they aren’t being made by hyper-partisan interest groups, whether it’s on the right side of the aisle or the left side of the aisle and that it’s something that has a degree of broad consensus across the state of Missouri.”

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, and a candidate for her party’s nomination for governor, said the amendments containing requirements for voting are intentional or “ballot candy” to distract voters from the essence of the measure. She also said the proposal would take away from the concept of one person, one vote.

“And that is just not how elections should be won, in our opinion,” Quade said.

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