Electronic surveillance amendment passes with overwhelming support

Wednesday, August 6, 2014 | 12:17 a.m. CDT

Of the five constitutional amendments on Tuesday's ballot, a measure designed to tighten electronic privacy received the most support from Missouri and Boone County voters.

Amendment 9 was approved statewide by 728,549, or nearly 75 percent in favor, with 246,020, or 25 percent opposed. In Boone County, the vote was 18,709, or 69 percent in favor and 8,382, or 31 percent opposed.

BALLOT LANGUAGE: Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended so that the people shall be secure in their electronic communications and data from unreasonable searches and seizures as they are now likewise secure in their persons, homes, papers and effects?

REACTION: State Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, who sponsored the amendment, said he was honored to sponsor such a heavily supported amendment.

"Today's vote shows an overwhelming support for privacy rights and reflects the erosion of those rights we've seen nationwide," Schaaf said. "The people have spoken with a loud voice — they don't want the government snooping around their data."

Schaaf said that the vote on Amendment 9 was significant, and he said that he hoped other states will follow Missouri's lead and pass similar legislation.

"Tomorrow, people will feel a little safer knowing their constitution protects their electronic data," he said.

AT ISSUE: Schaaf sponsored the amendment because of concerns related to the National Security Agency's surveillance programs that were brought to light by Edward Snowden. Schaaf said there is a "national crisis" when it comes to electronic privacy and he felt the state needed to take action.

"We don't need our government sniffing around without a sense of law being violated," Schaaf said.

Those opposed to the amendment are concerned about the lack of definitions for key terms, such as electronic communications and data. In a June 23 editorial, the Kansas City Star said the amendment was "vaguely worded" and argued litigation would be the correct way to address privacy concerns.

Detective Tracy Perkins of the Boone County Sheriff's Department Cyber Crimes Task Force said that her department already follows the amendment, and the general standard for law enforcement is to get a search warrant.

IMPACT: The ballot language stated that no significant costs or savings are anticipated for state and local governments. The courts will likely decide what the specific language in the amendment means as cases are brought before them.

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