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Why Did The GOP-Led Missouri Senate Snipe An Effort To Keep Noncitizens From Amending Their Constitution?

Missouri’s GOP-controlled Senate nuked language that sought to prevent noncitizens from voting to amend the Missouri Constitution.

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Missouri Republicans control the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the state legislature, making it virtually impossible for Democrats to block conservative policies. So, why did the state’s GOP-controlled Senate nuke language from a measure that sought to prevent noncitizens from voting to amend the Missouri Constitution?

Following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade and the subsequent enactment or activation of pro-life statutes by states such as Missouri, well-funded Democrat activists have weaponized the ballot amendment process to enshrine their radical agenda into law. Having successfully used this strategy to embed baby-killing in Ohio’s constitution, leftists are now working to place a similar proposal on Missouri’s 2024 ballot.

Ahead of that expected ballot measure, SJR 74 seeks to raise the threshold to amend the Missouri Constitution via initiative petition by requiring the majority of voters in “more than half” of the state’s congressional districts to ratify any constitutional amendment proposal. The Missouri Constitution currently mandates that any amendment proposal voted on by Missourians must only receive a majority of support from the electorate in order to ratify the state’s founding document.

While having successfully cleared the Senate (22-9) last month, the current version of SJR 74 is missing critically important language that was in the original version of the bill. Upon its introduction, SJR 74 included provisions specifying that “[n]o person shall be eligible to vote on any measure submitted to the people that amends, repeals, or replaces this constitution … unless such person is a legal resident of the state of Missouri and a citizen of the United States of America.”

During the Senate’s deliberation on the measure, however, Republican Sen. Mike Cierpiot introduced an amendment stripping the ban on noncitizen voting from the resolution. Despite possessing a 24-10 majority, the GOP-controlled Senate ultimately adopted Cierpiot’s amendment (18-12), with nine Republicans joining nine Democrats in supporting the change. Four senators were absent and did not vote on the amendment.

Cierpiot did not respond to The Federalist’s request for comment on why he introduced the amendment striking the language barring noncitizens from voting on constitutional ballot measures from SJR 74. He also did not respond when pressed if he would support a version of the measure including such language, should one be passed by the House and sent to the Senate.

How the Sausage Is Made

While Cierpiot introduced the amendment striking the ban on noncitizen voting for ballot proposals from SJR 74, it’s Senate President Pro Tempore Caleb Rowden who runs Missouri’s upper chamber and fought efforts to bring the resolution to the Senate floor during the early days of the body’s 2024 session. Rowden supported Cierpiot’s amendment stripping the language barring noncitizens from voting on constitutional ballot measures from SJR 74.

In January, members of the Missouri Freedom Caucus (MOFC) pushed the Senate to invoke a procedure to allow the body as a whole to “debate legislation” raising the threshold “to pass a constitutional amendment by initiative petition.” After the Senate rejected the motion, MOFC members orchestrated an hours-long filibuster on several of Gov. Mike Parson’s appointees, arguing that, as the Missouri Independent described, “very few bills of any kind were being referred to committees and that GOP priorities were being lost.”

In response, Rowden stripped the MOFC members of their committee chairs and labeling them “a small group of swamp creatures.” This included Republican Sen. Denny Hoskins, who’s running against Rowden in the 2024 GOP primary for secretary of state. Rowden also assigned the four senators “to parking spots as far from the Missouri Capitol building as possible.”

Speaking with The Federalist about SJR 74, MOFC chair and GOP Sen. Rick Brattin — who was one of the legislators Rowden punished — described the effort by Senate GOP leadership to railroad constitutional ratification reform as “nefarious” and highlighted the seriousness of Democrats’ attempts to circumvent Missouri’s “republican form of government.”

“Republicans sided with Democrats, even knowing that we’re about to have an abortion amendment that … is about to be put on the ballot,” Brattin said. Democrats have “also stated they’re going to be putting forth gun control measures [and] transgender issues. They’re going to circumvent the republican form of government that we have and go the direct democracy approach and [use] millions of dollars to deceive voters.”

While SJR 74’s primary sponsor, Republican Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, is not a MOFC member, one of the measure’s cosponsors, GOP Sen. Andrew Koenig, is. Brattin claimed Senate GOP leadership was “emphatically” against a freedom caucus member having any semblance of control over the bill once it made its way to the floor for consideration.

“It was quite clear that was the agenda,” Brattin said.

As The Federalist has previously observed, many of America’s so-called “red states” are controlled by establishment Republicans, who often fail to uphold the will of their conservative constituents. A Daily Wire investigation published last year, for example, found that many GOP legislators in red states have a less conservative voting record than their Republican counterparts in several “blue states.”

Rowden did not respond to The Federalist’s request for comment on why he supported the amendment striking language prohibiting noncitizens from voting on ballot initiatives from SJR 74. He also did not respond when pressed on whether he would support a version of the measure including such language, should one be passed by the House and sent to the Senate.

The Road Ahead

Meanwhile, Missouri’s Republican-controlled House is gearing up to fix the Senate’s weak-tea resolution.

HJR 86 not only includes the provisions from SJR 74 raising the threshold for ratifying amendments voted on by Missourians, but also contains language specifying that only “legal voters” may vote on such proposals. The resolution defines “legal voters” as “citizens of the United States of America who are residents of the state of Missouri and who are properly registered to vote in the state of Missouri.”

The measure includes additional provisions prohibiting foreign entities from sponsoring and contributing “money or other thing of value” to state initiative petitions. It also forbids an individual affiliated with an initiative petition to “solicit, accept, or receive” such donations or contributions from foreign entities.

Passed by a House committee last month, HJR 86 enjoys support from Speaker Dean Plocher. Majority Legal Counsel Hampton Williams told The Federalist that Plocher is a big supporter of constitutional ratification reform and backs “clarifying that a legal voter means a U.S. citizen that is a resident of Missouri.”

“The House will proceed with the House legislation and the Senate will have an opportunity to take up the House’s bill that contains the citizenship language,” Williams said.

MOFC member and Republican Rep. Doug Richey further confirmed these sentiments, telling The Federalist he believes there is an “appetite” among the House GOP to ensure language prohibiting noncitizens from voting on ballot measures is included in the final resolution voted on by the lower chamber. He also echoed sentiments espoused by Brattin, noting how Republicans must be clear in messaging to Missourians how they’re amending the state constitution.

“We need to make it very clear to citizens that we’re discussing the very document that establishes the framework for the way we govern,” Richey said. “The [Missouri] Constitution should not be a document that can be amended on a whim with just a simple majority. It should be a document that is recognized and respected for the role it plays. … Our effort to reform this system is to preserve our constitution from being manipulated by outside interests.”

House Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Patterson, a Republican, did not respond to The Federalist’s request for comment on whether he supports the House including a provision prohibiting noncitizens from voting on constitutional amendment proposals in SJR 74. He also did not respond when pressed on whether he will use his position as majority floor leader to advocate for such a provision to be included in SJR 74, should it be considered by the House.


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