Recount ordered in vote on ‘right to farm’ proposal

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander announced Tuesday that his office would conduct a recount of the close vote by which voters passed the controversial “right to farm” amendment to the state’s constitution earlier this month.

The measure was backed by the state’s commodity groups but opposed by many small farmers and environmental groups. Supporters said it would protect small farmers from “outside extremists” such as animal rights and environmental activists, while opponents argued that the measure would protect Big Ag.

The campaign was heated. When all the Aug. 5 election results were counted, Amendment No. 1 passed by a 2,490-vote margin Ð less than one vote per precinct. Recounts are not automatically triggered, but a registered voter in the state whose position was defeated can request one if the margin of victory is less than one-half of 1 percent. Both of these things happened: There was a margin of 0.24 percent, and former state Sen. Wes Shoemyer, who led the opposition to the amendment, requested a recount.

“We are talking about less than a quarter of a percent of all votes cast,” Shoemyer said in a statement. “With such a close margin, we owe it, not just to all the volunteers and organizations who put in countless hours fighting for Missouri’s family farmers, but also to the 497,091 people who voted ‘no’ on August 5.”

In the Joplin section of Southwest Missouri, the margin was not as tight. Amendment No. 1 passed in Jasper County with 61 percent, in Newton County with 66 percent, and in Barton County with nearly 75 percent. It did lose in Greene County, and some of the opposition bled to some of the adjacent counties, causing their margins to be closer than those near Joplin.

Doris Moorehouse, who works in the elections office at the Jasper County clerk’s office, said she and her colleagues were quasi-joking on Tuesday morning about how they were hoping there would not be a recount. They are already preparing for the November election.

Kander’s announcement means extra work for the office in the coming weeks. The ballots are stored in a vault at the elections office. The clerk’s office will bring them out and unseal them, and then they will be reviewed by teams from each side of the issue to make sure all the ballots that included votes on Amendment No. 1 are recounted.

“We have to get all the ballots we had at the polls and what was voted absentee, and they will have to be run through the machines again,” Moorehouse said. “We’ll have to run them all through the machine again, just to count that one race.”

The machines will count all ballots except those deemed to be showing “voter intent” in which a voter’s preference is in question, whether he didn’t fill in a bubble completely or the marking is shifted in such a way it can not be read by the machines.

Missouri Farmers Care, the organization leading the charge in favor of Amendment No. 1, said in a statement Tuesday, “We are confident of victory.”

With Kander’s announcement, the procedure will move relatively quickly. By Thursday morning, local election officials statewide will have to submit the time, date and place of their recounts to the secretary of state’s office. Recounts can begin as soon as Sept. 4. The results will be due to the secretary of state by Sept. 11. Kander is required to certify the results no later than Sept. 15.

“My goal is to set the standard for an open, transparent and fair recount,” he said in a statement. “Recounts are in place to both ensure the integrity of elections and give Missourians confidence in the results, which is why I put an emphasis on new transparency measures.”


SECRETARY OF STATE JASON KANDER’S office has launched a website for people to monitor the steps as counties submit information. That is available at

Leave a Reply