A Cole County judge threw out the Democratic secretary of state’s summary of a health care ballot measure Tuesday, replacing it with one backed by Republicans.
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and a handful of legislative leaders filed a lawsuit last month accusing the secretary of state’s office of writing a ballot summary that was “blatantly false, deceptive and intended to mislead the people.”
After hearing arguments from both sides, Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green agreed with Republicans.
Kinder, who is running for re-election, called the ruling an “enormous victory” for Missouri voters.
“It is imperative that voters have a clear and impartial summary on this crucial ballot issue that affects our health care rights and taxpayer dollars,” he said.
The Republican-controlled legislature approved a statewide ballot measure for November that would ask voters whether Missouri officials should be barred from creating a health insurance exchange without approval from voters or the legislature.
Health exchanges — a key component of President Barack Obama’s health care reform law — are an online marketplace for individuals to compare and purchase insurance plans.
The new ballot summary will now say: “Shall Missouri Law be amended to prohibit the Governor, or any state agency, from establishing or operating state-based health insurance exchanges unless authorized by a vote of the people or by the legislature?”
The wording was one of four suggested alternatives put forth by Republicans who filed the lawsuit.
The original summary written by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, a Democrat who is not seeking re-election, said: “Shall Missouri law be amended to deny individuals, families, and small businesses the ability to access affordable health care plans through a state-based health benefit exchange unless authorized by statute, initiative or referendum or through an exchange operated by the federal government as required by the federal health care act?”
Carnahan’s office had repeatedly defended its summary, arguing that it was fair and accurate about the probable impact of the law, and said it was disappointed by the court’s ruling.
“The court’s summary would provide Missouri voters with less information about the impact of the proposal and how Missouri individuals, families and small businesses can access affordable health care,” Carnahan’s office said in a statement released late Tuesday. “Our office is reviewing the decision to consider our next steps.”
Carnahan has 10 days to appeal the verdict to the Missouri Supreme Court.