Marsy's Law Reaction: Supreme Court of Kentucky clarifies language required for new amendments

(WBKO) -- After it's third year of trying to be passed, Marsy's Law was ruled void Wednesday after the way it was worded on November's ballot.

Marsy's Law has been ruled void after the Kentucky Supreme Court determined the ballot question and informational publication of the proposed amendment was too vague. (Photo: Marsy's Law for Kentucky)

The proposed amendment, garnering 63% of the vote, was determined to be invalid, because of the vagueness of the ballot question.

It read, "Are you in favor of providing constitutional rights to victims of crime, including the right to be treated fairly, with dignity and respect, and the right to be informed and to have a voice in the judicial process?"

Supporters are calling it a disappointing but unsurprising ruling from the Commonwealth's highest court.

"I am surprised that it's unanimous, and I am still disappointed in the outcome. They've upended what a majority - an overwhelming majority of Kentucky voters wanted to do. And I believe those voters were very well informed about what Marsy's Law is and what it is not," said State Senator Whitney Westerfield, supporter of the bill.

A lawsuit had been filed last year before the election, claiming the language surrounding the ballot question was too vague, and didn't fully explain how it would affect the state's criminal justice system.

"It was a question that was very misleading to the public," argued Alan Simpson, a Bowling Green defense attorney in opposition to the proposed amendment.

The case was then appealed to Kentucky's Supreme Court.

"Our Constitution is so important that If the public is going to vote on a change, they need to see exactly what they're voting for," Simpson said.

The court's opinion was settled Wednesday on a unanimous front, saying that the Constitution requires the amendment to be submitted "in it's entirety to the electorate for a vote," and that it is required "to publish the entirety of the proposed amendment at least 90 days before the vote is to be taken."

"Because the ballot question was found deficient, or not detailed enough ... the advertisement of that ballot question was also insufficient. So that ruling today really only addresses -- literally only addresses that very issue. It doesn't speak to the substance at all," said Westerfield.

With this ruling, the court sets a new precedent for how future amendments can be proposed.

"It's a drastic change," said Westerfield.

"There's been a very good clarification of the law by the Supreme Court that makes it crystal clear that if you are going to amend the constitution of the state of Kentucky, the voters have to have the full text," said Simpson.

However, the controversy around the actual meaning of the law -- to give more rights to crime victims, while others say rights are already on the books -- is tabled, at least for now.

Westerfield said he has the 2020 draft ready to go, that he or someone else will file in the General Assembly, if he doesn't continue his term in the senate.

He is running for a Kentucky Supreme Court seat in this year's November election.