Missouri Senate Republicans Pass Bill To Restrict Constitutional Amendments Ahead of Potential Abortion Measure

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Missouri Senate Republicans have jammed through a bill that would significantly raise the threshold for constitutional amendments to pass, a move that would overturn nearly 200 years of precedent in a brazen attempt to stymie a potential November abortion rights amendment.

The bill, which advanced in a party-line vote yesterday, would require that a majority of voters in at least five of the state’s eight congressional districts vote in favor of an amendment, along with a majority of the voters in the state at large, in order for a proposal to pass. Missourians have been able to amend the state’s constitution with a simple majority since 1846. 

In Missouri, the Republican-led Legislature fully controls congressional redistricting and state lawmakers have used that power to gerrymander the state’s congressional districts in favor of the GOP. There isn’t a single competitive congressional seat in the state e, and despite Democrats garnering 42% of the vote in a typical statewide election, Republicans easily control six of the state’s eight congressional districts.

The move by Republicans comes as the state could see a historic abortion rights amendment on the ballot this November. Republicans in the state see changing the rules as the only way to defeat it, according to the Missouri Independent. Under this bill, if an abortion amendment goes before voters, it is plausible that it could receive a majority of the statewide vote, but not support from a majority of the congressional districts, resulting in a failed amendment. 

If this ploy seems familiar, it’s because a similar proposal was introduced by Ohio Republicans last year. In Ohio, the measure would have raised the threshold for constitutional amendments to pass with the self-admitted goal of making an abortion rights amendment going to voters months later harder to pass. The restrictive effort failed overwhelmingly, and Ohioans subsequently voted to enshrine abortion rights in the state’s constitution by a 13-point margin.

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashchroft (R) has also nefariously sought to undermine potential reproductive rights amendments — a state appeals court in Missouri unanimously ruled against titles for six reproductive rights ballot proposals written by Ashcroft, determining they were “replete with politically partisan language.” The Missouri Supreme Court later denied an appeal of the decision.

Missouri Senate Democrats have fought tooth and nail against the current bill — they launched a 21-hour filibuster in order to force Republicans to strip out language that would bar noncitizens from voting on constitutional amendments and other items. Noncitizens already can’t vote on the matter, and Democrats argued that Republicans were using the provision as “ballot candy” in order to entice Republican support.

The proposal now heads to the Missouri House. If passed, it would head to voters for approval later this year. According to the Associated Press, some Republicans are hoping for the proposal to go before voters in the August primary election in order for it to be in place in November, when the potential abortion rights proposal could be on the ballot.

Read the bill here.

Track the status of the bill here.