Within Missouri, there are three levels of government:

  • state government
  • county
  • city

Missouri's state capital is Jefferson City lying approximately halfway between its two largest cities, St. Louis on the eastern border and Kansas City on the western border. The organization of Missouri's state government is similar to many of the other states in the United States. Its constitution specifies the organizational structure of the state's government in addition to other basic rules and procedures. These are covered in the following subsections.

Table of contents
1 State Government Organization
2 County and City Government
3 State Statutes
4 Political Parties
5 External References

State Government Organization

The current constitution of Missouri, the fourth constitution for the state, was adopted in 1945 and provides for 3 branches of government, the legislative, judicial and executive branches.

General Assembly

The legislative branch, called the General Assembly, is specified in Article III of the Missouri Constitution. The General Assembly consists of two bodies, the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The House of Representatives has 163 members who are elected every 2 years, one from each of the 163 districts.

Voting districts for the House of Representatives are apportioned based on the last decennial census. A commission is set up by the Governor to recommend the new districts. The two parties who had the most votes in the last Governor election select the nominees for the commission and the Governor selects from among these. In practice, the two parties are the Democrat and Republican parties.

The Senate consists of 34 members from districts divided such that the population of each district is approximately equal. The Senators are elected for 4 year terms, unlike the Representatives. At each election, half of the Senators are elected. The 34 Senatorial voting districts are set up in a manner similar to the Representatives voting districts.

The Missouri constitution does not allow a referendum for the district apportionment.

Term Limits

Members are not allowed to hold office for more than 8 years in any one house, nor are they allowed to hold office for more than 16 years in both houses.


The judicial branch, as specified by Article V of the Missouri Constitution, consists of:

  • the state supreme court.
  • court of appeals.
  • 44 circuit courts.
  • associated circuit courts.

Seven judges comprise the State Supreme Court and hold court in the state's capital, Jefferson City. Unlike the life term appointments made to the Supreme Court of the United States, these judges hold the position for 12 years. Judges for the court of appeals hold their office for 12 years as well, but circuit court judges have terms of 6 years and associated circuit court judges have terms of 4 years.

Missouri pioneered a unique way of selecting judges for its supreme court and court of appeals in an effort to remove some of the partisan politics from the selection process. Article V Sect 25(a) of the Missouri Constitution specifies a process, known as the Missouri Plan to use in the appointing of judges to the following courts:

  • State Supreme Court
  • State Court of Appeals
  • St. Louis Circuit Court and Associated Circuit Court
  • Kansas City Circuit Court and Associated Circuit Court.

When a position becomes available in one of the above courts, potential judges are nominated by a nonpartisan commission ideally chosen by merit. The Governor must then select one of these to fill the vacant position. Finally in the first general election following 1 year or more after the appointment, the judge must be confirmed by the voters. Judges for all other courts are elected directly by the voters.


The executive branch (Article IV) is headed by the governor who is charged with executing the laws of the state. The governor is elected for 4 years and can serve two terms. He or she must be at least 30, a Missouri resident for at least 10 years and be a U.S. citizen for at least 15 years before holding office.

There is a lieutenant governor, required to have the same qualifications as the governor, who is an ex officio president of the senate. The lt. governor is allowed to debate any and all questions before the senate as a whole and may cast the deciding ballot in case that there is a tie. He may also cast the deciding ballot in a joint vote of both houses.

County and City Government

Counties with more than 85,000 people may elect their own charters, smaller ones must use the standard charter dictacted by the state.

Missouri allows cities to adopt their own charter should they chose to do so; it was the first state in the union to do so. Regardless of the freedom given to city governments, most municipalities choose to organize their local government around a mayor and a city council. Council members are typically elected in either city wide or district elections.

State Statutes

The complete list of state statutes may be found on the Missouri web site http://www.state.mo.us. What follows is a selection of a very small set.

Capital Punishment

Capital punishment is permitted in Missouri by its constitution. The constitution mandates that all death sentences must be reviewed by the state's supreme court and it gives the defendent the right of a direct appeal to supreme court for any conviction whose punishment is the death sentence. The constitution allows for either lethal injection or gas (Sec 546.720). Before 1937, Missouri hanged those that received a death sentence. Prior to 1965, executions were performed using lethal gas, but since then, Missouri uses lethal injection. The minimum age for receiving the death penalty is 16. Since 1930, the following executions have been performed:

  • hanging: 6? until 1937
  • gas: 39 until 1966
  • injection: 60

In 2002, Missouri had 6 executions, placing it 4th in the nation after Texas (33), Indiana (9), and Oklahoma (7). Considering the number of executions performed since 1976, Missouri with 60 executions follows only Texas (297) and Virginia (87).


Today, Missouri stands with 12 other states in the United States for a total of 13 states making sodomy illegal. Consensual acts that are allowed for married couples are prohibited by law for same sex partners. Missouri's statute 566.090 prohibits sexual intercourse between those of the same sex as a class A misdemonor. Current punishments for this are a $1000 fine and 1 year in jail.

Political Parties

Like the rest of the nation, the two dominant parties in Missouri are the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. These parties have been responsible for establishing the voting districts, casting the votes in the electoral college as well as fielding candidates for the general elections and help determining legislative policy and priorities.

External References