Proposed restrictions on ballot initiatives in Missouri

Several bills are pending in the Missouri state legislature designed to make it more difficult for common citizens to get initiatives on ballots in Missouri. They are discussed with Nomacot Adiang, Pat Bartholome, and Regular Active Magazine host Spencer Graves. Nomachot is Kansas City Organizer with Missouri Health Care for All. Pat is with the League of Women voters of Kansas City, Jackson, Clay and Platt Counties, Missouri.

* HJR 79 “modifies provisions for initiative petitions and referendums” has received a “Do Pass” approval by three committees of the Missouri House. It has 8 co-sponsors in addition to the original sponsor, all Republicans.  It requires petitions signed by ten percent (increased from eight percent) of registered voters in each of the congressional districts in the state (increased from two-thirds).  It also increases the votes needed for approval from a majority to two-thirds.  It is awaiting action by the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee as these notes are being written.

* SJR 31 also ” Modifies the initiative petition process”. It would make it much more difficult to amend the Missouri constitution via an an initiative petition in two primary ways. First, it requires petitions to be signed by 15% of the legal voters in each of the congressional districts; current law requires petitions to be signed by only 8% of legal voters in each of two-thirds of the congressional districts. Second, it increases the votes required for approval of a constitutional amendment from a simple majority to two-thirds.  Pat and Nomachot said that dozens of people testified against this bill;  they saw only two testifying in favor.  One was a lobbyist from Florida.  The other was a representative of the office of Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, whose father, John Ashcroft, as Governor of Missouri had supported the current initiative process.

* SJR 37 is similar to SJR 31 but differs in two primary ways. First, it applies to changes in Missouri law, not just constitutional amendments. Second, it requires only 60% of the votes to pass, not two-thirds per SJR 31.

* More that 20 other bills are currently pending to make it harder for citizens to get a petition on the ballot and to get it approved.  Click here to see a folder on Google Drive with other documents related to this issue.

* The initiative process is part of the Missouri state constitution. Therefore, if these bills pass, they still must be approved by the voters in a future election.

Several organizations are urging their supporters to oppose changing Missouri’s initiative petition process.  The Sierra Club provides some of their own analysis of some of these bills.  Other organization opposing these changes include Missouri Jobs with Justice, the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, and Our Revolution Kansas City, Missouri.

People concerned about this issue can do several things:

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