The Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District has unanimously struck down Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s attempts to change ballot wording on six abortion proposals.
Ashcroft’s language would ask voters, among other things, whether to allow for “dangerous, unregulated, and unrestricted abortions, from conception to live birth.”
The three-judge panel heard the case Monday and issued a decision Tuesday, saying the secretary chose to use politically partisan language to explain to voters what the potential proposals would do.
“The Secretary’s summary statements do not fairly describe the purposes and probable effects of the initiatives,” the court said in the judgement.
The court rewrote some of the descriptions revised by a lower court.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri represents Dr. Anna Fitz-James, who is leading the charge to put the initiatives on the election ballot.
“Today, the courts upheld Missourians’ constitutional right to direct democracy over the self-serving attacks of politicians desperately seeking to climb the political ladder. The decision from Missouri Court of Appeals is a complete rebuke of the combined efforts from the Attorney General and Secretary of State to interfere and deny Missourian’s their right to initiative process,” said the ACLU.
Ashcroft said his office will appeal the decision and stands by the wording used.
“My office will continue the fight to preserve an accurate summary for Missouri voters,” he said.
In a related case, a separate state appeals court upheld today State Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick’s estimated cost of allowing some abortions. According to Fitzpatrick, the impact on state agencies is unknown. He said local governments estimate a possible cost of at least $51,000 annually in reduced revenues.
“I want to applaud the court for their decisive and unanimous ruling which makes it clear my office did its job with integrity,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement. “I oppose these measures and wholeheartedly agree with the other opponents that protecting innocent life is vitally important, but that does not and cannot influence my duty to honestly inform the voters of the state as to their potential costs. We have now been sued twice over these initiatives, our work has endured the intense scrutiny of 10 different judges at every level of our court system, and all of them have said we did our job within the confines of the law. We will continue to do that and will defend our work as often as necessary in order to ensure voters have unbiased fiscal impact information on their ballots.”
State Rep. Hannah Kelly, R-Mountain Grove, state Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, and New Bloomfield resident Kathy Forck say Fitzpatrick, a fellow Republican, is underestimating the potential cost. They say the projection should be based on every Missouri county – not just Greene County.
In order to get on the 2024 election ballot, more than 170,000 valid signatures from registered voters would be required by next May.
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