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Fewer initiative petitions filed this year than last; Ashcroft says it’s ‘expected’


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Even with an influx of initiative petitions in June, the amount filed so far this cycle is far fewer than in the same time frame for the last election. But that is not out of the ordinary, according to Missouri’s Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft.

“There are fewer initiative petitions that have been filed. I think that is what you expect,” Ashcroft told The Missouri Times. “In the 2018 two-year cycle there were maybe 120, 127 filed between election day [2016] and when I was sworn in. There is always the potential to see a jump in filings when you have a change in party — something we didn’t have going from the 2018 [election] to the 2020 cycle.”

For the 2020 election cycle, 99 initiative petitions have been submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office. In total, 24 petitions are accepting comments, 22 have been approved to circulate, 37 have been rejected, and 16 have been withdrawn.

In the same time frame during the 2018 election cycle, 239 had been submitted. Of the petitions filed between the November 2016 election and July 1, 2017, 119 were approved for circulation, 91 were rejected, and 29 were withdrawn. 

The initiative petition process in 2018 resulted in an overhaul of the states ethical standards, an increase of the minimum wage, and the legalization of medical marijuana. 

The citizen initiatives filed so far include a variety of topics, from abortion to right-to-work to daylight saving time. In June, the state received a bevy of petitions seeking to increase voter registration. 

Since taking office, Ashcroft has pushed for reforms to the initiative petition process. He has put forth a variety of ideas, including upping the threshold to alter the constitution and instituting an filing to fee to decrease to number of so-called “frivolous” petitions.

“I am not calling for reform because of any specific initiative,” Ashcroft said. “I don’t want to do anything that stops people from being involved in the political process.”

Before circulating petitions for signatures, state law requires groups must first have the form of a petition approved by the Secretary of State’s Office. Every proposal received by the Secretary of State’s Office is sent to the Auditor’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office. 

Once a petition is approved to circulate, petitioners have until May 3, 2020, to deliver signed petitions to the Secretary of State’s Office. Proposed constitutional changes must be signed by 8 percent of legal voters in any six of the eight congressional districts, which amounts to a minimum of 160,199 signatures. Proposed statutory changes must be signed by 5 percent of legal voters in any six of the eight congressional districts, which amounts to a minimum of 100,126 signatures.

More about the initiative petition process can be found on the secretary of state’s webpage.

This article is part of a periodic update on the initiative petition process. Other stories in the series can be found here