Tell Jefferson City no on Amendment 3

The Examiner

Missouri voters told them once and now have to tell them again. A no vote on Missouri Amendment 3 on Nov. 3 is warranted for the sake of cleaner government.

In 2018, voters by a wide margin approved a series of reforms under the heading of Clean Missouri. It limited campaign contributions and all but eliminated lobbyists’ gifts to state legislators.

But the most important change was the most complicated and least flashy. It introduced a process to make drawing legislative districts more objective instead of sticking with the habit, decade after decade, of the party in power drawing up safe districts to keep itself in power and give itself more seats than its overall vote total would warrant.

This is especially important right now because this is a census year, and new districts will be drawn next year. Citizens have to live with those results for 10 years.

Other states have taken this process out of the hands of the legislators who stand to gain or lose. They hand a map and the census data to an appointed body with no dog in the fight, and they ask for objectively drawn districts, without regard to the home addresses of those in office or those who want to be. In other words, no gerrymandering.

Missouri hasn’t been able to muster the energy to go that far, but Clean Missouri moves the state in the right direction. The state auditor appoints a demographer to play a significant role in the process. We said in this space two years ago that Clean Missouri was imperfect but a step toward good government. We still hold that position.

It was the people, through the initiative process, who put this on the ballot in the first place. Why is it back now? One simple reason: It threatens the status quo. It threatens Republicans’ monopoly on power in Jefferson City.

So Jefferson City Republicans have claimed that the more than 60 percent of voters who said yes to Clean Missouri didn’t really know all of what they were voting for and need to take another crack at it.

The Missouri General Assembly over the last generation has a troubling history of manipulating or ignoring the voters’ stated wishes. They set aside animal cruelty protections and campaign money limits. They have suggested they simply might not fund the expansion of the Medicaid program that voters approved two months ago. They put a poorly devised and confusing plan for needed highway money on the ballot two years ago and have used its rejection as an excuse to essentially end that discussion. Clean Missouri also subjects the General Assembly itself to greater transparency under the Missouri Sunshine Law, and the Legislature has fought that too.

The initiative petition process, under which voters directly amend the state Constitution to adopt or change policy, is often a sledgehammer being swung where more precise tools would work better. But our legislators have time and again ignored both public opinion and common-sense policy, so voters take things in their own hands. They spoke clearly on Clean Missouri in 2018. They shouldn’t be insulted with a do-over. A no vote on Amendment 3 would send that message.