After the House had adjourned from its morning session, and upon returning to the office, I received a note saying that Auditor Schweich had been taken to a St. Louis hospital with a medical situation and to be prayerful for him. Shortly after that, it was announced that he had passed away and there was to be a memorial prayer service in the House chamber. I was able to attend this service before traveling home.
Everyone at the Capitol is in shock and disbelief upon hearing of the death of Auditor Schweich. Though most of us do not understand why this happened, we realize there are times when we just have to accept things as they are. Now may be one of those times. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Schweich family: wife, Kathy, daughter, Emily, and son Thomas, Jr. This tragic loss has to be extremely difficult for them and our heartfelt sympathy goes their direction. Tom Schweich had a brilliant mind, was incredibly honest, and was a devoted and dedicated public servant. We may never know why things happened as they did, but we do know he was focused on making Missouri and the world a better place. Thank you, Tom Schweich, for your service to our state. It was very much appreciated.
In the over four years that I was acquainted with Mr. Schweich, he occasionally came to my office, and it was always an honor for me to have a statewide elected official visit. He was friendly, and knowing that Neosho was my hometown and remembering the Neosho audit, he always asked about how things were going and about various individuals, especially City Manager Troy Royer, who used to work in the Auditor’s office. Tom Schweich enjoyed coming to Neosho. One day he told me that his favorite places here were the Neosho Square and Big Spring Park and that Neosho would be a great place to raise a family. This past summer I had the opportunity to be with him on two different occasions as we campaigned for the Farming Rights Amendment. He knew how important agriculture was to the state of Missouri and always supported it and our family farms.
On Wednesday, the day before the passing of Mr. Schweich, the Missouri Supreme Court heard challenges to the constitutional amendment that sought to protect farming and gun rights in the state. The fate of Constitutional Amendment #1 and Constitutional Amendment #5 now rests in the hands of seven judges who serve on Missouri’s highest court. They must decide whether the ballot language that state voters saw on their August ballot was fair and not in some way misleading. However, before the questions of ballot language can ever be decided, the court must first determine whether they can legally even consider these two lawsuits.
Amendments 1 and 5 were heard consecutively because the facts in both cases are so similar. Opponents are challenging the ballot language and the small time frame in which to do so. In trying to make their case, the opponents are using laws that generally address mistakes or misconduct in elections. Attorneys defending the language argue that there was no evidence, even alleged, of misconduct that had any impact on the election results in the case of these two amendments. In reality, they argue there is no evidence that anyone was misled by the language as it appeared on the ballot. In deciding constitutional amendments voters only see a summary of the proposal on the ballot. That summary must be certified by the Secretary of State’s Office prior to being placed there. And it was.
Missouri law does not allow for any changes to a ballot measure less than six weeks before an election. This narrows down the time frame for any challenges to ballot language before going to a vote of the people. Furthermore, the law that defines election irregularity does not apply to ballot language.
After hearing all the arguments this past Wednesday, the Court could make its decision on the amendments at any time.