News Briefs

How would a Missouri constitutional convention work?

By: - February 1, 2022 8:58 am

A committee of the 1944 Constitutional Convention meets under the Thomas Hart Benton murals in the Missouri House lounge (Courtesy of State Historical Society of Missouri, Arthur Witman Photograph Collection).

Voters will be faced with a question on the November ballot: “Shall there be a convention to revise and amend the constitution?”

If a majority of Missourians vote “yes,” it would trigger the process of selecting 83 delegates.

Gov. Mike Parson would be responsible for the first step, calling an election in “not less than three nor more than six months” — in other words as early as February or as late as May 2023.

The political party committees for the state’s 34 Senate districts would each be allowed to nominate one candidate to carry the party label in the election. There are five recognized political parties in the state – Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, Green and Constitution – with authority to make nominations.

No independent candidates are allowed in the district elections, where the top two vote-getters go to the convention.

There are 15 at large delegate positions, elected on a nonpartisan ballot. Anyone who wanted to run for an at-large slot would seek nomination by circulating a petition within their home state Senate district. The 15 candidates receiving the highest number of votes statewide would be seated. 

After the election, the governor sets a date, within six months, for convention to begin in Jefferson City. The legislative chambers and workspaces are given over to its use.

The constitution sets no time limit on deliberations. The pay, unchanged since the 1865 Constitution, is $10 per day, plus the same mileage rate paid to lawmakers for travel to and from Jefferson City.

The convention’s work can be presented to voters as a whole package, or as a series of amendments to be voted on individually. The election, on a date set by the governor, would be as early as 60 days or as long as six months after the convention adjourns.

The section describing the operation of the convention leaves virtually everything about managing the convention to the delegates themselves. They set their own rules, settle contested elections, hire staff and appropriate money to cover their expenses.

There is only one very specific requirement.

“The sessions of the convention shall be held with open doors,” the constitution states.

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Rudi Keller
Rudi Keller

Rudi Keller covers the state budget and the legislature. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he spent 22 of his 32 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics for the Columbia Daily Tribune, where he won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.