By Johnny Kampis | Missouri Watchdog
ST. LOUIS – The Missouri Court of Appeals ruled late Monday that Secretary of State Robin Carnahan’s ballot summary on an amendment regarding judge appointments can stand.
This still doesn’t clear the path for the state to print general election ballots, however, because the plaintiffs in the case still can appeal the case to the Missouri Supreme Court.
This amendment, which Missouri voters will consider during the Nov. 6 election, would give the governor more authority in appointing an extra member to the commission that nominates judges for the Court of Appeals and Missouri Supreme Court. It would also allow the governor to appoint more lawyers to that panel.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit argue that Carnahan’s summary is misleading because it says the governor has authority to “appoint all lawyers to the commission.”
“While it does reduce the number of lawyers required to serve as voting members of the Commission, it also increases the number of lawyers who may serve as voting members of the Commission from four to seven. Thus, the Secretary’s language, focusing as it does on the increase in the Governor’s authority, cannot be deemed insufficient or unfair in failing to reference a reduction in the number of lawyers required to serve on the Commission,” Judge Joseph Ellis wrote in the official case opinion.
Judges Karen King Mitchell and James Smart agreed with Ellis.
Smart wrote another opinion noting the governor could create a voting membership composed entirely of lawyers.
“Because one can discern on reflection that this is a very significant change to the plan, the Secretary could reasonably believe that it should be addressed in the summary as a significant change,” he wrote.
Carnahan’s office lauded the ruling in a statement.
“We are pleased with today’s decision by the Missouri Court of Appeals to uphold the secretary of state’s ballot measure summary language for Constitutional Amendment 3. The decision once again confirms that the language drafted by our office meets the legal obligation to provide a fair and sufficient summary.”
Eddie Griem, attorney for the plaintiffs, said he was disappointed in the decision.
“We think the court’s reasoning is flawed and the summary is deceptive,” he said.
Greim must decide Tueday if he will appeal to the state’s highest court. By law, Missouri must prepare general election ballots for military and overseas absentee voters by Sept. 22 and local absentee voters by Sept. 25.
Secretary of State communications director Stacie Temple said local election officials must have a sufficient number of absentee ballots available for military and overseas voters’ requests, which means they may decide not to print all the ballots by that date as long as they can fulfill the requests.