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It's unfortunate that as the deadline approaches to certify Missouri's November ballot, courts have been scrambling to rewrite the language for Amendment 3.

The Republican-led Missouri Legislature wants voters to undo changes Missouri voters made to the redistricting process when they passed Clean Missouri in 2018. But the ballot language they wrote was misleading.

The language was "insufficient and unfair for multiple reasons," ruled Pat Joyce, Cole County's circuit judge. The language, she said, doesn't mention the ballot's "central feature: the wholesale repeal of voter-approved rules for redistricting and replacing them with prior redistricting rules designed to benefit incumbent legislators."

Ouch. That's a scathing rebuke.

She rewrote the wording in August. Since then, a three-judge Western District Court of Appeals panel offered more limited revisions, while still agreeing there were "major problems" with the ballot language.

Here is the original language:

"Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:

Ban all lobbyist gifts to legislators and their employees;

Reduce legislative campaign contribution limits; and

Create citizen-led independent bipartisan commissions to draw state legislative districts based on one person, one vote, minority voter protection, compactness, competitiveness, fairness and other criteria?"

Here's the newest language:

"Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:

Ban gifts from paid lobbyists to legislators and their employees;

Reduce legislative campaign contribution limits;

Change the redistricting process voters approved in 2018 by: (i) transferring responsibility for drawing state legislative districts from the Nonpartisan State Demographer to Governor-appointed bipartisan commissions; (ii) modifying and reordering the redistricting criteria."

The successful Clean Missouri initiative changed the way legislative districts are drawn. Previously, the task was done by governor-appointed bipartisan commissions. An appellate judge made the decision if they disagreed.

Clean Missouri changed the process to have a non-partisan demographer craft districts. Amendment 3 would undo this.

Republican lawmakers should have crafted clear ballot language from the start. Not doing so creates trust issues with voters, which could undermine their goal of passing Amendment 3.

News Tribune

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