In May, the Missourians for Responsible Lending and Give Missourians a Raise campaigns submitted approximately 176,346 signatures for an initiative petition to cap payday loan interest rates and 167,304 signatures for a petition to raise Missouri’s minimum wage.
However, the initial count from local election authorities in St. Louis City and St. Louis County shows that we are 270 signatures short of the required threshold to qualify the Cap the Rate petition for the November ballot, and 1,601 signatures short of the threshold for the Raise the Wage petition.
We are confident that more than enough valid signatures exist among the 31,582 submitted to St. Louis City for the minimum wage petition and 28,220 submitted to St. Louis City for the payday lending petition. Initial data obtained from local authorities indicate that a significant number of signatures were improperly invalidated in St. Louis City. It is our intention to examine each signature not validated by the local agencies to make sure that every registered voter who signed a petition has his or her voice heard.
At least four other initiative petitions in Missouri in the last 10 years were initially found to have fallen short of the required valid signature total, but later ordered onto the ballot by judges after a more thorough review found initial counts to be incorrect.
In the coming days, we will examine our legal options in determining the appropriate steps to remedy the decision to not certify the petition based on any signatures wrongfully not validated by local election boards.
BACKGROUND: Initial counts for least four initiative petitions have successfully been challenged in the past decade.
2008 Clean Energy Initiative: A Missouri judge found that 526 signatures should have been verified as valid by local election authorities in the 3rd Congressional District. The measure was ordered on the November ballot in September 2008.
- St. Louis Business Journal, 9/9/08: "The renewable energy initiative will appear on the November ballot after all. Initially, the initiative was kept off the ballot because local election authorities in the 3rd Congressional District of Missouri determined that the initiative petition was 526 signatures short of the 14,860 signatures required from the area. But proponents challenged that conclusion and in court proceedings this week, Judge Callahan of the Cole County Circuit Court ruled that a sufficient number of valid signatures had been submitted."
- Associated Press, 9/8/09: "Backers of a proposal requiring Missouri utilities to use more renewable energy said Monday a state judge has ordered the measure be placed on the November ballot. The secretary of state's office in August determined that supporters of the renewable energy measure had fallen short in their petition drive to place the question before voters. Missourians for Cleaner Cheaper Energy sued to challenge the finding...a Cole County judge had sided with the group."
- Kansas City Star, 9/13/06: "Failures at the Kansas City election board almost cost voters an opportunity to fund low-income health-care programs through higher tobacco taxes. However, a Cole County judge has ordered a constitutional amendment to raise tobacco taxes onto the November ballot. That's a welcome outcome to an unfortunate legal tangle that never would have been necessary had the Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners done its job."
- Associated Press, 9/12/06: "A state judge on Monday ordered a proposed tobacco tax increase to appear on Missouri's Nov. 7 ballot, ruling that supporters had gathered enough valid petition signatures."
- Associated Press, 9/16/2002: "A proposal that would more than quadruple Missouri's cigarette tax qualifies for the Nov. 5 ballot, a judge ruled Monday. Cole County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Brown found that Citizens for a Health Missouri had gathered enough petition signatures to put the measure before voters. Last month, Secretary of State Matt Blunt said the group had fallen 673 signatures short in the 2nd Congressional District of getting the proposal on the ballot. But the group filed a lawsuit challenging the decision."
- Associated Press, 9/16/2002: " A measure seeking collective bargaining powers for fire and ambulance personnel will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot under an agreement reached Monday by a firefighters group and the secretary of state's office. In a brief appearance before a circuit judge, the two sides agreed that enough petition signatures had been verified for the proposal to make the ballot... After reviewing disputed signatures, the secretary of state's office validated 293 previously rejected signatures of registered voters, giving the measure 67 more signatures than needed."