The Republican Party’s post-election assault on democracy continues, with the latest front opening up in Missouri.
In November, an overwhelming bipartisan majority of Missourians passed a constitutional amendment nicknamed Clean Missouri, which will fundamentally change elections in the gerrymandered state. Gifts (from lobbyists) to lawmakers will be limited to $5, state officials will be subject to open records transparency laws, former state officials will have to wait two years to become lobbyists, and most significantly, a nonpartisan “state demographer” will now be appointed to draw state legislative districts that achieve partisan fairness.
Analysis has suggested that the redistricting provision will at first benefit Democrats, as the state’s current map is chopped up to keep Republicans in power. And because they value power (and steak dinners) over democracy, the state’s GOP leaders are openly discussing gutting and repealing the voter-approved amendment.
“Fundamentally, you think when the people vote you shouldn’t be changing that vote,” new Governor Mike Parson, who replaced corrupt ex-Gov. Eric Greitens last year, told the AP. “But the reality of it is that is somewhat what your job is sometimes, if you know something’s unconstitutional, if you know some of it’s not right.”
Of course, there’s nothing unconstitutional about the amendment, since it literally changed the constitution. Republicans won’t have such an easy time straight-up repealing the amendment, as it’ll take another act by voters, but they can make it relatively meaningless, which is exactly what they intend to do.
“I think the initiative petition itself, there’s a lot more to it than what the standard person can understand,” state Sen. Dave Schatz, the next Senate president pro tem, lied through his teeth the AP. “I think we’re going to have to get some legal opinions on truly the effects of what Clean Missouri really does.”
The amendment’s provisions are very clear — Republicans just don’t like them, so they want to use their power to ignore them. If this sounds familiar, you’re not crazy, as this is exactly what’s happening in Michigan, where voters also passed significant electoral reforms that Republicans absolutely hate. Michiganders overwhelmingly approved an independent, bipartisan commission that would redraw legislative lines, but the state GOP is trying to tamper with the way political affiliation is assigned, which would in turn skew the way the commission makes its decisions.
Michigan voters also approved Proposal 3, which would implement automatic and same-day voter registration. Republicans in the State Senate, who will lose their unfettered power once newly elected Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer takes office, are pushing bills that would require voters to register within 14 days of the election unless they register at a clerk’s office.
Meanwhile, Missouri Republicans are following the lead of other state GOPs in attacking the way these voter initiatives qualify for the ballot in the first place.
Right now, to qualify a normal ballot initiative, petitioners need signatures from 5% of the number of people who voted in the last gubernatorial election in at least six of the eight congressional districts; it requires 8% to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot. Gov. Parson wants to raise that bar, just as Republicans in Michigan want to make it harder to qualify initiatives by limiting the number of signatures that can come from each district. Republicans in Ohio are looking to do the same in the next legislative session.
As for the cynical “interpretation” of amendments, Missouri Republicans aren’t alone there, either. Florida Republicans are going to work hard to nullify the massive expansion of voting rights passed by over 60% of voters there with “implementing” language.
It’s all a sham, all a desperate attempt to hold on to power at all costs, a dropping of all “patriotic” pretense while spitting in the eye of democracy and the will of voters.