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House elections committee continues work on initiative petition changes

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Bills aimed at restructuring Missouri’s initiative petition process continue to dominate the early stages of session in the lower chamber

 The House Elections and Elected Officials Committee heard HJR 88 from Rep. Mike McGirl Wednesday which would require initiative petition signature collection for both constitutional amendments and laws from each congressional district in the state. The bill would also require initiative petitions proposing constitutional amendments to receive a majority vote in two-thirds of the counties in the state. 

Current Missouri law requires petitions for laws to be signed by at least 5 percent of voters in any six of the eight congressional districts and 8 percent for constitutional amendments. 

“I think it needs to be deliberate,” McGirl said. “For the state, I think the majority should be significant enough to really represent what the citizens of Missouri want.”

Debate on the bill further illustrated the committee’s divide on initiative petition laws, with Democrats insisting the proposed measures are designed to disenfranchise voters and Republicans claiming they are necessary measures to ensure more Missourians have a say in the process. 

“I understand deliberate, and I think it’s deliberate now,” Democratic Rep. David Tyson Smith said. “But you would agree it’s making it tremendously difficult for things to get done under this resolution?”

The committee voted out HJR 79, which passed 9-4 along party lines, also on Wednesday. From Rep. Mike Henderson, this bill also seeks to increase the threshold for initiative petition passage and require signatures from each congressional district. 

Republicans on the committee have indicated restructuring Missouri’s electoral process will continue to be a priority during session. Previously lawmakers, including committee chairman Rep. Dan Shaul, had requested a special session to address election laws.