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Pippens v. Ashcroft

Eight Missouri citizens are challenging the summary statement of a proposed constitutional amendment that would undermine key provisions of the state’s citizen-initiated redistricting reform passed in 2018.

Last Updated: November 19, 2020
Published: May 18, 2020

Note: The Bren­nan Center is not a parti­cipant in this case.

Case Back­ground

On May 18, 2020, eight Missouri citizens filed a peti­tion with the Circuit Court of Cole County chal­len­ging the summary state­ment of a proposed consti­tu­tional amend­ment passed by the state legis­lature, Senate Joint Resol­u­tion 38. The proposed amend­ment, which is slated to appear on the Novem­ber 2020 ballot, would under­mine key provi­sions of the redis­trict­ing reform passed by citizen initi­at­ive in 2018. Plaintiffs argue that the summary state­ment accom­pa­ny­ing the proposed amend­ment viol­ates state law because it insuf­fi­ciently and unfairly describes the consti­tu­tional changes that would take place should S.J.R. 38 be approved by voters. The plaintiffs have asked the court to block the use of the current summary state­ment. They have also asked the court to either order the General Assembly enact a new summary that complies with state law or order the use of the summary provided by plaintiffs.

Oral argu­ment took place on August 7, 2020. On August 17, the Circuit Court of Cole County ruled in favor of the plaintiffs find­ing that the ballot summary was unfair, insuf­fi­cient, and in viol­a­tion of Missouri law. The court ordered that plaintiffs’ proposed revi­sions to the summary state­ment be adop­ted by the Secret­ary of State and appear on the ballot in Novem­ber 2020.

On August 18, 2020, the defend­ants appealed the Circuit Court’s decision to the Missouri Court of Appeals, West­ern District. The appel­lants and respond­ents filed a joint motion to exped­ite the case, which the Court of Appeals gran­ted. Oral argu­ment took place on August 28, 2020. 

On August 31, 2020, the Missouri Court of Appeals, West­ern District affirmed in part and reversed in part the opin­ion of the Circuit Court of Cole County and certi­fied a modi­fied version of the ballot summary state­ment. The Court of Appeals rejec­ted a request to rehear the case. The modi­fied version of the ballot summary state­ment appeared on the Missouri ballot in the Novem­ber 2020 elec­tions.

Docu­ments

Circuit Court of Cole County

Missouri Court of Appeals, West­ern District

Amicus Briefs in Support of the Defend­ants-Appel­lants

Amicus Briefs in Support of the Plaintiffs-Respond­ents