The Missouri Supreme Court has heard arguments on whether what appears on next month’s ballot about a proposed gun rights amendment says all it should say.
The Court has been asked to consider whether the title and ballot summary that voters will see next month for Constitutional Amendment 5 tells them enough about what it will do by making gun rights “unalienable.”
Attorney Chuck Hatfield asks whether voters know that would mean holding those rights to the highest legal scrutiny.
“Saying ‘unalienable’ tells us nothing,” argues Hatfield. “It tells the voters nothing about the change that we’re making to the Constitution.”
Senator Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), an attorney, sponsored the measure in the legislature. He argues to the Court that it would put Missouri in line with rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“It’s an individual right that is unalienable. It gets the highest level of review from this court,” says Schaefer. “Basically when this court is presented with those questions, and I can’t speculate on those, what they would be, but it is going to be a decision for this court of what meets that standard and what does not.”
Read the ballot language (scroll down to “Constitutional Amendment 5”)
Attorneys for the state and the backers of the ballot language say the challenge should be tossed out because of a statutory deadline barring changes to ballots within six weeks before an election, and say that absentee ballots have already been cast. They say those ballots could be invalidated if the issue’s language is changed.
Hatfield says it isn’t the job of the Supreme Court to worry about those ballots.
“If this measure passes 70 [percent] to 30 [percent] it won’t matter. If this measure fails 70 [percent] to 30 [percent] it won’t matter,” argues Hatfield. “If it’s close it’s going to matter and we may be back [in front of the Supreme Court], but today it doesn’t matter.”
Additionally, Hatfield says if his clients’ case against that language is ruled to be moot, they will have been disenfranchised because he could not have acted earlier.
“The reason we got here when we did, the reason we got to the trial court before 60 days, is because everyone doubletimed it,” says Hatfield. “The Secretary of State issued their certification early, the Auditor issued their summary statement early, we filed suit on the afternoon of the day that the Secretary certified the initiative, we were in court on the next business day. Your honor, if this case is moot, I don’t know what else to do for my clients.”
The Court is also asked to consider, if it decides ballot language is inadequate, whether it can provide new language or whether it can simply remove the issue from the ballot altogether.
It could issue a ruling at any time.