JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – The Republican candidate for attorney general criticized Democratic incumbent Chris Koster on Tuesday over the ballot summary for a health insurance measure.
Ed Martin spoke about on the ballot summary and other election issues during a news conference at the state Capitol.
The health insurance summary was written by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, a Democrat, and a Cole County judge last week ordered that a revised version be used after several Republican officials filed a lawsuit.
Koster’s office is responsible for representing the state in lawsuits and defended Carnahan and the ballot summary in court. The attorney general declined to appeal the judge’s ruling, although the secretary of state’s office wanted to do so.
Martin said Tuesday that Koster should have said Carnahan’s ballot summary was misleading. The attorney general’s office is responsible for approving the legal content and form of ballot summaries prepared by the secretary of state’s office.
Martin criticized the handling of the ballot summary and court challenge, charging that Koster “signed off on ballot language that was inappropriate, not clear and should never have been allowed to be presented.”
Koster spokeswoman Nanci Gonder said the role of the attorney general’s office is limited. She said both the legal content and form of the summary for the insurance measure were proper.
“Editorial control of the ballot title rests with the secretary of state,” Gonder said. “It is the court’s duty to determine the fairness of the ballot title, not the attorney general’s.”
Asked about the ballot summary later Tuesday, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon said the attorney general’s office reviews ballot summaries for form. Nixon served four terms as attorney general before he became governor in January 2009.
“The power lies to do those ballot titles in the secretary of state’s office,” Nixon said.
The measure at issue was approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature and referred to this year’s ballot. It would bar state officials from creating a health insurance exchange without approval from the public or the Legislature. It also would prohibit state departments from taking federal money to set up the online marketplace intended to allow consumers to shop for and compare health insurance plans.
The federal health care law requires states to create health insurance exchanges by 2014 or the federal government will run it.
Besides the ballot summary, Martin also called for more vigilance on election fraud issues. He expressed particular concern about voter registration and absentee balloting. Martin previously served on the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners and was the chief of staff for Republican former Gov. Matt Blunt.
“The best way to fight voter fraud is to say if you’re doing it or getting close, we’re watching and we’ll prosecute you,” Martin said.
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