JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri secretary of state’s office will warn local election officials about a legal dispute surrounding a health care proposal when it certifies the candidates and issues to appear on the November ballot.
Under a court order released Tuesday, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan agreed to include a disclaimer when she certifies the general election ballot stating the ballot summary for the health care measure “is the subject of litigation pending in the Cole County Circuit Court.” The disclaimer will warn: “Local Election Authorities should not print the ballots until notified that the court approves the summary statement.”
At issue is a measure to bar Missouri officials from creating a health insurance exchange without approval from voters or the Legislature. The ballot measure also would prohibit state departments from taking federal money to set up the online marketplace intended to allow consumers to shop for and compare health insurance plans. The federal health care law requires states to create health insurance exchanges by 2014 or the federal government will run one for them.
Missouri Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and several GOP legislative leaders contend Carnahan, a Democrat, wrote an unfair and misleading summary for the measure after it was referred to the ballot by the Republican-led Legislature. The Republican officials filed a lawsuit last month, and they asked Cole County Circuit Judge Dan Green last week for a temporary restraining order to block Carnahan from certifying the ballot.
Carnahan’s summary states: “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 federalgovernment as required by the federal health care act?”
Both sides agreed to the consent order, which also calls for Carnahan to remind local election officials of the litigation in any supplemental ballot certifications until a final decision is reached on the summary.
Kinder said the order ensures voters and officials are not disadvantaged by “biased and improper language on the ballot summary.”
“It is crucial that voters have fair and proper ballot summaries and that taxpayer dollars are not wasted by the secretary of state allowing ballots to be printed that the court may rule illegal,” Kinder said.