Missouri Supreme Court orders new election on measure ending KC ‘defund the police’

(The Center Square) – Voters will once again decide on a constitutional amendment to increase minimum funding for Kansas City’s police department after the Missouri Supreme Court set aside a previous result from the 2022 election.

Last September, the state’s highest court heard arguments from Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas stating the exact cost of the ballot measure wasn’t provided to voters. On Tuesday, Justice Paul Wilson wrote in a 42-page opinion the ballot’s summary misstated and misrepresented the cost of the change.

“A voter reading this summary not only would not understand the portion of the fiscal note describing the fiscal impact on the City, that voter surely would be surprised to discover that a large portion of the fiscal note was devoted to that subject,” Wilson wrote.

Senate Bill 678 and Senate Joint Resolution 38, both sponsored by Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, were signed into law by Republican Gov. Mike Parson, a former sheriff of Polk County. Republicans in the legislature said the bill would stop a “defund the police” approach by Lucas. More than 63% of Missouri voters approved the initiative, titled Amendment 4.

It mandated a police department established by a state board of commissioners must increase its budget from 20% to 25%. Kansas City’s police department is the only force controlled by the state.

“The Missouri Supreme Court sided with what is fair and just: the people of Kansas City’s voices should not be ignored in conversations about our own safety,” Lucas posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “This is an important decision standing up for the rights of cities and their people.”

Luetkemeyer said the second vote won’t change the outcome.

“The voters of every county in this state overwhelmingly passed Amendment 4 in 2022,” Luetkemeyer posted on X. “I’m confident they’ll do the same this November. The mayor’s radical agenda to defund the Kansas City Police Department will never take root in Missouri.”

However, Wilson was direct in his criticism of the 2022 ballot information.

“For the state to decide what to put on the ballot and, as a result of that decision, to make the voter read information that is both materially inaccurate and seriously misleading is an ‘irregularity’ of the highest conceivable magnitude,” Wilson wrote.

Wilson wrote state law requires the court to order the new election and provide the language for the ballot. However, the secretary of state will be allowed to change the amendment number to avoid confusion. The ballot will read:

“Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to authorize laws, passed before December 31st, 2026, that increase minimum funding for a police force established by a state board of police commissioners to ensure such police force has additional resources to serve its communities?

This would authorize a law passed in 2022 increasing required funding by the City of Kansas City for police department requests from 20% of general revenue to 25%, an increase of $38,743,646, though the City previously provided that level of funding voluntarily. No other state or local governmental entities estimate costs or savings.”

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