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Stem-Cell Opponents Sue State Over Ballot

ST. LOUIS (CN) - Missouri's Secretary of State and Auditor manipulated ballot language to prejudice state voters against a proposed constitutional amendment by a group that opposes stem-cell research, the group claims in Federal Court.

The Missouri Roundtable for Life claims Secretary of State Robin Carnahan and Auditor Susan Montee intentionally manipulated ballot language to prejudice voters against their proposal.

The group and its director and co-plaintiff Frederic Sauer want voters to approve a state constitutional amendment that would require that in any fiscal year the first $200 million disbursed from the Life Sciences Research Trust Fund be spent on primary health care for poor Missourians, but not for abortion services or human research, which includes stem cell research.

The Roundtable claims the state officials violated their duties by providing ballot summaries and fiscal note summaries that prejudice voters against the amendment.

As an example, they cite their own proposed Summary Ballot Statement: "Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended so that in any fiscal year, the first $200 million disbursed from the Life Sciences Research Trust Fund shall be expended on primary healthcare for low-income Missourians, provided, however, that no such funds shall be expended on abortion services, human cloning, or prohibited human research, as such terms are defined in the Revised Statutes of Missouri Section 196.1127 as passed by the general assembly in 2003?"

They compare it with the Secretary's Summary Ballot Statement: "Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to reduce the amount of money available by 200 million dollars to improve the quality of life sciences research in Missouri and redirect this money solely to pay for certain primary healthcare for low-income Missourians?"

The plaintiffs allege violations of their free speech and due process. They demand an injunction prohibiting the state from including any summary statements or fiscal note summaries that contain argumentative language designed to turn voters against the amendment.

The plaintiffs are represented by Matthew Hearne with Hearne & Bendick.

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