Fifty-four days: the countdown to the Nov. 4 general election has already begun. The excitement is not as widespread as political science majors would like; midterm elections produce lower voter turnout rates than presidential elections. 58.2 percent of eligible U.S. citizens participated at the polls during the 2012 residential election, compared to the 41.0 percent of citizens who voted in the 2010 midterm election. Missouri’s average hovered higher than the national average at a 44.5 percent turnout rate for the 2010 election.
Unlike the U.S. Constitution, the Mo. Constitution, along with 49 other state constitutions, can only be amended with direct consent from the people. The proposed amendments— proposed by the legislature and referred to voters or directly proposed by the citizens themselves—appear as ballot measures on every voter’s ballot, regardless of political affiliation.
Four measures will appear on Missouri’s Nov. 4 ballot: Constitutional Amendments 2, 3, 6 and 10. Constitutional Amendment 2 would allow courts to consider evidence of all previous criminal charges, regardless if the individual was found guilty or not, in hearings of the sexual abuse of minors.
This amendment is in response to a unanimous 2007 Mo. Supreme Court ruling that overturned a similar Mo. state law, a law that permitted the use of prior evidence of sexual abuse in cases containing adolescent victims. Judge Michael Wolff of the Mo. Supreme Court defended the ruling, saying that “the defendant’s propensity to commit the crime with which he is presently charged” should not affect existing investigations, in order to guarantee that judgments are only based on the allegations at hand.
Overall, this measure has not been divisive. Campaigning on behalf of this amendment has been minimal. Other states have already adopted similar measures and procedures parallel to Constitutional Amendment 2.
A strongly contested ballot measure on the ballot is Constitutional Amendment 3, which mandates that teachers be evaluated, hired and fired based on a “standards based performance evaluation system.” A school’s implementation of the evaluation system must be approved by the state in order to receive state funds. A teacher’s pay will be based primarily on the evaluation outcomes. Teachers will not be able to collectively bargain or protest the enactment of this system. The amendment would also bar new teachers from receiving tenure securities. Teach Great has heavily funded the initiative, while teachers’ unions fervently oppose the measure. Teachers’ unions have coalesced under the Committee in Support of Public Education (CSPE) and have promised heavy campaigning against this amendment in the upcoming weeks.
If passed, Constitutional Amendment 6 would allow citizens to cast their votes six business days before all general elections. The “Fair Ballot Language” reads that “if passed, this measure will have no impact on taxes.” However, opposition, such as the Missouri Jobs with Justice, protest that the amendment is a “sham” since it does not allow polls to remain open during the weekends, as the original Mo. Early Voting Initiative had proposed. There are mixed analyses on whether or not extended voting periods can boost long-term voter turnout.
If passed, Amendment 10 would forbid the governor from suppressing and altering the amount of money that has been appropriated in Missouri’s budget by the General Assembly (GA); furthermore, it disallows the governor’s current ability to propose budgets that depend on tax revenue that has not been approved by the General Assembly. Proponents of the amendment state that the governor should not be allowed to arbitrarily re-appropriate funds—which Governor Nixon was accused of doing, without legislative consent, after the Joplin disaster of 2011.
As a Mo. inhabitant and a current or future taxpayer, the first step to approving or defeating amendments is to register to vote. The voter registration process starts at Jason Kander’s, Missouri’s Secretary of State, website: http://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/goVoteMissouri/register.aspx. Print out the Voter Registration Form online or request a form to be sent to your home. Fill out the application and mail it at least four weeks before the election. You can also register to vote at any Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office or your County Clerk’s office.
The Mo. Secretary of State’s website can provide information about voters registered and their polling places. Visit http://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/voterlookup/. Six weeks before election day your designated polling place will appear here. A voter must vote at this location or request an absentee ballot from your local election authority prior to Election Day.
Polling locations are open from 6:00 AM- 7:00 PM Tuesday, November 4. A valid photo ID will be required. Voting begins in 54 days.