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Prop B causes confusion and hassles for clerks and voters

March 02, 1999
By: Melissa Miller
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - County clerk Wendy Noren usually has April election ballots printed by this time. But not this year.

A legal battle over the wording of a concealed weapons proposition has delayed clerks around the state as they anxiously wait for a state court to rule on an appeal.

Wendy Noren said March 10 is the longest she will wait to print ballots for Proposition B.

"If the ballots have to be reprinted after that date the cost will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $25,000," she said. "The bulk of that will be paid by the parties involved in the election -- school districts, municipalities, and the state."

The bill's summary wording which will appear on the ballot is being challenged in Western District Court of Appeals in Kansas City. The suit brought by Roy Bergman, a former highway patrolman, and Timothy Heuiser, a Butler County resident, charges the current wording of the April 6 ballot is not an accurate representation of the language of the bill passed by the legislature last session.

The suit also alleges the estimated cost for local governments to implement the measure between $500,000 and $1 million annually, is too high.

If the appeal is successful in changing the ballot after county clerks have already printed them, there will be additional hassles and costs to reprint them, said Jim Grebing, the spokesman for the Secretary of State's office.

"It's a real pain for the local election officials," Grebing said.

He said his office was disappointed the Missouri Supreme Court did not approve their request last week to skip the appeals court and hear the appeal first.

Bergman's attorney John Rogers refused to comment.

A similar delay occurred in 1996 when there were challenges to a term limits proposition. The ballot had to be changed less than four weeks prior to the election.

Absentee voting began last week and two people have already voted in Boone County. It is possible absentee voters will be considering different language than what will appear on the April 6 ballot.

Grebing though said that because of the small number of absentee voters, the election results would not be challenged.

Noren has advised absentee voters the wording may change and has encouraged them to come back and check with her closer to the election.

For those who will be voting absentee, Noren gives the following advice:

"People are really voting on the full language of the bill passed by the legislature," she said. "They should make their decision based on that, not the narrow 50-word summary that appears on the ballot." Noren has posted the bill in her office so it is available to voters.