JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A Missouri judge on Friday ordered a redistricting measure to be knocked off the November ballot, a win for Republican critics of the proposal to tie state legislative seats to the parties' share of the statewide vote.
Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green ruled that the ballot initiative unconstitutionally addresses multiple topics and directed the secretary of state to remove it from the Nov. 6 ballot.
Green wrote in his ruling that the range of issues in the petition "do not relate to — and are not properly connected with — any readily identifiable and reasonably narrow central purpose." He said the roughly 20 changes in the measure relate to both redistricting and to ethics and campaign finance rules.
Chuck Hatfield, an attorney for the campaign pushing the measure, says the group will appeal.
The proposal by Clean Missouri would replace Missouri's system for drawing state legislative districts with a model designed to have the number of seats won by each party reflect the parties' share of the statewide vote in previous elections for president, governor and U.S. senator, where Democrats typically run closer to Republicans. Criteria such as compact and contiguous districts that keep communities together would carry a lower priority.
Republicans currently hold commanding majorities in the Missouri House and Senate, with Democrats primarily relegated to representing residents in the state's largest cities.
The measure also would limit lobbyist gifts to lawmakers to $5, slightly lower Missouri's campaign contribution limits for legislative candidates, bar them from raising political money on state property, alter the waiting period for ex-lawmakers to become lobbyists and make lawmakers subject to the state open-records law.
Lawyers for the initiative's sponsors and GOP Attorney General Josh Hawley, whose office is legally responsible for defending ballot measures, had argued in court last month that its various provisions all have a single focus on the Legislature.
"We have always thought that this legal matter would be decided at the Appeals Court level," Hatfield said. "This is a speed bump, but the law is on our side, the people are on our side, and Amendment 1 will be passed in November to clean up Missouri politics."
Missouri Republican Party spokesman Chris Nuelle in a Friday statement applauded the ruling, claiming the redistricting would unfairly benefit Democrats.
"From the beginning, Clean Missouri has used the guise of ethics reform and sleek marketing to distract Missourians from their real aim: radically redistricting Missouri to solely benefit liberal Democrats," he said.
Although some Republicans support it, including former U.S. Sen. John Danforth, the campaign for the Missouri initiative is run by a Democratic consultant and has received big checks from groups that typically back Democrats, including unions and an entity linked to the philanthropic network of liberal billionaire George Soros.