Missouri, the Heart of the Nation

By William E. Parrish; Charles T. Jones Jr. et al. | Go to book overview

SIXTEEN
The 1945 Constitution
and Postwar Politics

The Constitutional Convention of 1943–44

By the early 1940s Missourians of diverse opinions agreed that the state's constitution was outdated. The constitution of 1875 had been amended over fifty times, and government under it had become unwieldy. Led by St. Louis members of the National Municipal League, a movement to secure a constitutional convention received support from farm organizations, labor unions, the Missouri State Teachers Association, and the League of Women Voters. It also had the general support of both Republican and Democratic leaders. Proponents of governmental change sought to make the executive branch more effective by strengthening the governor's powers. They wanted tax collections centralized in one department, greater compensation for legislators so as to attract better candidates, and revision of suffrage and election laws.

An amendment to the 1875 constitution required that after 1922 the question of whether to hold a constitutional convention be submitted to the electorate at least every twenty years. In the general election of 1942, by a 100,000-vote majority, voters approved calling a convention, although almost one-third of those casting ballots expressed no opinion on the proposition.

The constitution of 1875 provided a cumbersome method for the selection of convention delegates. Each senatorial district would be entitled to two, one Republican and one Democrat, while fifteen would be chosen from the state at large on a nonpartisan basis. Presumably the delegates from the senatorial districts were to be chosen by local mass meetings. In most cases, however, selection was left to party leaders.

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