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Amendments: Right To Farm, Guns And Privacy Win

A commercial chicken house in Florida.
USDA | Wikipedia

It was an early night for most of the amendments, but the farm interests had to stay up late. Shortly after midnight, unofficial state returns showed Amendment 1, the "right to farm" proposal, winning by 2,528 votes. That was a a margin of only about one-quarter of 1 percent, which is close enough to entitle the opposition to a recount.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting in statewide, Amendment 1 passed with 498,751 votes, or 50.127 percent.  The "no" votes came in at 496,223, or 49.873 percent.

Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst had said he was waiting for results from St. Louis County. And those results almost closed the gap. The county vote was 62,767 for and 126,920 against the measure.

"Thousands of Missouri family farmers have worked harder than I've ever seen to pass this amendment," Hurst said. "It would not have been possible without an extraordinary effort by our members across the state."

Hurst acknowledged that the battle may not be over, due to the 2,528 vote margin.

"When it's this close, I don't think anybody can have confidence that there won't be a recount," Hurst said, "but I'm fully confident that the vote will stand."

Officials with Missouri's Food for America, the main opposition group, have so far not been available for comment. Treasurer Wes Shoemyer has accused the right-to-farm proposal as primarily benefiting China-based Smithfield, a major pork producer, and he has warned that its passage could lead to a proliferation of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) across Missouri. While talking with reporters shortly after midnight, Hurst described the opposition's arguments of foreign involvement as "crazy."

"The ability to build a hog farm is the same as it was 24 hours ago," Hurst said. "It still has the same (Department of Natural Resources) regulations on siting, on setbacks and all the other regulations about the placing of hog farms."

Hurst added, "Why do we assume that increase in pork production is necessarily bad for the state? I'm a corn and soybean farmer; those hogs will eat what I produce on my farm, they'll help support my family's lifestyle, (and) they'll help support my kids who are beginning to be farmers."

"If you think there's going to be a big hog farm located right under the Arch in St. Louis, I think you can quit worrying," Hurst said.

Amendments 5, 7, 8 and 9

The Associated Press called the results for the four other amendments while the vote totals were still coming in.

Amendment 9 is the biggest winner so far, as far as vote count. This would add electronic data and communications to a protections from unreasonable searches and seizures. It won 75-25 percent. State Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, one of the key backers, responded to the win via Twitter:

"Amendment 9 is victorious! The people spoke loudly! Stop government snooping!"

Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri, was also happy with the results:

"By passing Amendment 9 with 728,549 yes to 246,020 no votes, Missourians ensured that our digital and electronic communications enjoy the same privacy protections as the papers in our homes and on our persons. Missourians can take pride in being the first state to bring their Constitution into the 21st century by a vote of the people. Privacy is a core American value and Missourians are not alone in wanting to protect their privacy from warrantless government surveillance. Congress and the president should listen to the voters of Missouri by strengthening federal laws to ensure our privacy online and in all of our electronic communications and data."

Also, Amendment 5, which would expand Second-Amendment rights in Missouri, won by a 61-39 percent margin. It makes the right to "keep and bear arms" "unalienable," removes language stating that the right does not justify the wearing of concealed weapons, and it expands the right to possession of ammunition and accessories. Opponents weighed in quickly, condemning the amendment's passage. Becky Morgan of Webster Groves provided a statement on behalf of the Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action on Gun Sense in America.

"The right to bear arms is one of our fundamental rights in the United States – that is why our founding fathers made it the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution and that is why it has been a part of the Missouri state constitution for almost 150 years. Amendment 5 would prove not only unnecessary but also dangerous if the gun lobby uses it to dismantle the conceal carry permit system in our state. As a mom, I can't imagine anything more upsetting than if a criminal or a person without any safety training is in public carrying a loaded and concealed gun near my children. In spite of this outcome, I firmly believe that Missourians want to continue to have laws that balance the right to bear arms with the need for public safety."

Morgan also said they would continue to support Gov. Jay Nixon's decision to veto a bill that would have allowed armed teachers in public school classrooms.  Republican lawmakers are expected to attempt an override next month.

Constitutional Amendment 8, which would have created a veterans' lottery ticket, went down to defeat 45 percent for and 55 percent against.

And finally Amendment 7 -- the proposed transportation sales tax that had been supported by a multi-million-dollar ad campaign -- lost with only 41 percent of the voters supporting it.

"We are very disappointed in the result, but the people have spoken and we respect that," said Stephen Miller, chair of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission. As we have seen for the past several years, I think Missourians have a clear understanding that more resources need to be invested in our transportation infrastructure, but there just isn't any consensus on how to pay for it. We need to continue working toward that end."

MoDOT officials have scheduled a press conference for 8 a.m. Wednesday morning to discuss the results of the failed attempt to create 0.75 percent sales tax to support transportation projects. More details on the defeat of Amendment 7 can be found here.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.