Missouri Judges and Constitutional Amendments – How I am Voting and Why

Missouri puts their judges up for election, and recently, there have been more and more constitutional amendments on the ballots. Here is how I am voting and why. Not that you will necessarily agree with me, but my thought process could help you make your decision. Feel free to let me know why you disagree. My mind can sometimes be changed.

St. Louis County Judges

The Missouri Bar Association reviews all judges up for election. Lawyers know the judges the best. This time around, they are recommending that all the judges in St. Louis County be retained. So I will vote yes on all of them. If you don’t live in St. Louis County – check here for your county.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT NO. 2

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended so that it will be permissible to allow relevant evidence of prior criminal acts to be admissible in prosecutions for crimes of a sexual nature involving a victim under eighteen years of age?

If more resources are needed to defend increased prosecutions additional costs to governmental entities could be at least $1.4 million annually, otherwise the fiscal impact is expected to be limited.

My vote: NO — Currently prior criminal acts are not admissible as evidence to show that the alleged is the ‘type of person’ to commit a crime. The State Supreme Court unanimously stated this in 2007 – hence the legislature’s attempt to get the people to change the constitution. This Constitutional Amendment creates an exception for one crime, treating one alleged criminal differently from all other alleged criminals. Even if one thinks this is the worst possible crime, in the US justice system, one is innocent until proven guilty. So all alleged criminals should be treated the same. To treat one class differently is a violation of the “Innocent until proven guilty” assumption. You are stating that the crime they are accused of outweighs their presumed innocence, justifying the removal of legal protections. I am unwilling to state this.

ETA: And, as the League of Women Voters point out – we already allow this evidence in sentencing hearings – after conviction.

I suspect this will pass, because the majority of voters will not realize the problems with this amendment, and will think ‘anything that helps convict pedophiles is a good thing.’

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT NO. 3

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:
– require teachers to be evaluated by a standards based performance evaluation system for which each local school district must receive state approval to continue receiving state and local funding,
– require teachers to be dismissed, retained, demoted, promoted and paid primarily using quantifiable student performance data as part of the evaluation system,
– require teachers to enter into contracts of three years or fewer with public school districts, and
– prohibit teachers from organizing or collectively bargaining regarding the design and implementation of the teacher evaluation system?

Decisions by school districts regarding provisions allowed or required by this proposal and their implementation will influence the potential costs or savings impacting each district. Significant potential costs may be incurred by the state and/or the districts if new/additional evaluation instruments must be developed to satisfy the proposals performance evaluation requirements.

My vote: NO — No way am I voting for this. Basing teacher pay and retention primarily on student test scores only sounds good if you believe a student’s success is due solely to the quality of the teacher, with no influence from the parents or the students themselves. This evaluation system, and the three year contract system, will actually further encourage the better teachers to teach at private schools.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT NO. 6

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to permit voting in person or by mail for a period of six business days prior to and including the Wednesday before the election day in general elections, but only if the legislature and the governor appropriate and disburse funds to pay for the increased costs of such voting?

State governmental entities estimated startup costs of about $2 million and costs to reimburse local election authorities of at least $100,000 per election. Local election authorities estimated higher reimbursable costs per election. Those costs will depend on the compensation, staffing, and, planning decisions of election authorities with the total costs being unknown.

My vote: YES — Early voting is a good idea – the more people who have an opportunity to vote, the better for the system.
NO – I didn’t read the text of this carefully. The Missouri League of Women Voters discussion of the amendments clarified things for me. This isn’t a real Early Voting bill, but a distraction to prevent a real one from being passed. Note that all extra days are “business days” not weekends. And, if the legislature chooses not to fund it, nothing happens. Also, not included in the ballot wording, is that the only location for early voting would be the County Election Board. Early Voting is a good thing, but passing this would make passing a real solution less likely.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT NO. 10

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to require the governor to pay the public debt, to prohibit the governor from relying on revenue from legislation not yet passed when proposing a budget, and to provide a legislative check on the governors decisions to restrict funding for education and other state services?

State governmental entities expect no direct costs or savings. Local governmental entities expect an unknown fiscal impact.

My vote: No — This sounds like the legislature attempting to remove abilities from the governor that tick them off, because currently the legislature has a party majority opposite the governor. Instead of providing a legislative check, they are removing an executive check.