Electronic privacy amendment approved by wide margin

Senator Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph | Courtesy of the Missouri Senate
Rob Schaaf | Courtesy of the Missouri Senate

Missourians voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to include electronic communications and data under the umbrella of personal property that is protected by the state constitution.

Amendment 9 passed with 75 percent of the 925,138 votes in favor of the measure. The amendment, which was introduced in the Missouri senate early this year, changes the language of the Missouri constitution so that electronic communications and data are protected from search without a warrant.

Passage of the amendment comes in the wake of the June Riley v. California decision, in which the Supreme Court ruled that cell phones are protected from warrantless searches in the same way that other personal belongings and property already are under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Sponsoring Senator Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, said the results of tonight’s election showed voters’ discontent with the current state of affairs and their desire to defend their personal rights.

“I just think that Missourians will wake up tomorrow and know that their constitutional rights have been defended,” Schaaf said.

Schaaf went on to to say he thinks other states will look to Missouri as an example when adopting similar protections themselves. He also said he believes there will be court cases to come that will further define the amendment.

Columbia resident Jan Witherwax, outside her polling place in south Columbia, said the amendment was one of the motivators for her trip to the polls.

“While I personally don’t have anything that’s impacting people in general, I still want privacy for my communications,” Witherwax said.

Opposition to the amendment was minimal. However, legislators like Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, expressed fears that the amendment’s unspecific language would make prosecution difficult in some circumstances.

In response, Schaaf said probable cause would be the only thing needed to obtain search warrants for electronic data and communications.

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