Missouri House Passes Bill Making It Harder for Voters To Amend State Constitution

UPDATE: On Friday, May 12, the Missouri Legislature adjourned its 2023 legislative session without advancing House Joint Resolution 43. On May 9, the Missouri House passed an amended version of the resolution raising the threshold to pass constitutional amendments to 57% of the vote. The amended resolution failed to move forward in the Senate before adjournment.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, Feb. 2, the Missouri House passed a proposal to raise the threshold for constitutional amendments to 60%. In Missouri, citizens can initiate statutory or constitutional changes via a petition process; approved petitions are placed on the ballot before voters. Currently, only a simple majority (over 50%) of voters must approve a measure for it to pass. 

House Joint Resolution 43 would raise the threshold for a measure to pass to 60%, making it harder for Missouri voters to enact changes. Over a dozen other resolutions have been introduced by Missouri Republicans to further curtail voters’ ability to amend the state constitution, some with even more extreme changes like implementing a 67% threshold. These efforts by GOP lawmakers emerge with an important backdrop: Missouri voters legalized marijuana during the 2022 midterms via constitutional amendment with 53% approval. The state is also a prime target for a ballot measure to protect abortion access; efforts in Kansas and elsewhere succeeded resoundingly when placed before voters last year. 

H.J.R. 43 passed the House largely on partisan lines, with all Republicans voting in favor and all but one Democrat voting against. The resolution is now before the Missouri Senate, also controlled by Republicans. If passed, it would then need to be approved by voters before going into effect.

As of last month, GOP lawmakers in at least three states are already looking to make the ballot initiative process more difficult. These proposals build on recent momentum to curtail voters’ power at the ballot box. In 2021, the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center monitored 146 bills aimed at restricting or abolishing the ballot measure process, a 500% increase from 2017. 

Read H.J.R. 43 here.

Read more about proposals to curtail the ballot initiative process here.