JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The two petition initiatives that are pending approval for the ballot have moved to the counties for verification, moving them one step forward towards approval.
The left-leaning organization Missouri Jobs with Justice partnered with others like ProgressMissouri and Communities Creating Opportunities to gather signatures from across the state to create an early voting period of 6-weeks for general elections. The petition would further expand the 6-week voting period to include weekend voting during the last 21 days before the election. The last Thursday before the election would have extended hours for voting.
The auditor’s office, who creates fiscal notes for petition initiatives before circulation, estimates a cost to voters of $834,000 to $9.9 million for each election cycle with a $2.5 million start up cost. Some estimates have been as high as $11 million per election cycle.
The signatures for the early voting petition initiative were turned in on May 5, which was the last day for submission. The initiative petition was reported to have over 300,000 signatures upon receipt by the Secretary of State’s office.
The Missouri County Clerk’s Association shared with the Missouri Times that the county clerks were not able to handle a 6-week early voting period from a financial standpoint, which they felt would need to be responded to with a tax increase.
HJR90 was passed towards the end of session after gaining momentum in response to the concern’s that the petition created with local government.
The language for the measure proposed by the legislature reads:
§ House Joint Resolution No. 90, passed by the General Assembly in 2014, proposes amending the Missouri Constitution to permit voting in person or by mail for a period of six business days prior to and including the Wednesday before the Election Day in all general elections.
Liberal-leaning groups previously attacked the legislative proposal. A joint press release from ProgressMissouri, Missouri Jobs with Justice, and Communities Creating Opportunities on May 12 called the proposal a “sham” and “an insufficient, cynical attack on citizens’ petition.”
Not all believe the legislative proposal is an inferior alternative to the petition initiative, especially right-leaning political strategist Jeff Roe, founder of Axiom Strategies.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for Missouri voters to make a choice about an early voting proposal,” Roe said. “The proposition the legislature put forward gives voters a reasonable opportunity to vote. The ease and convenience of it to allow voters to vote and will protect integrity and the election process, while not being difficult for clerks to administer.”
Roe not only supports the legislative proposal, but he is very suspicious of the validity of the petition initiative.
“The Democrat proposal is a $10 million donation to the Democrats by Missouri taxpayers. It is too slanted and an unneeded amount of time. It’s obviously a proposal to help them electorally and it is not needed.”
The suspicion led to the creation of a committee to start to analyze the petition initiative. He explained that though 160,000 signatures are needed and they clearly submitted more than required, the signatures are constitutionally required to be 8% of the vote of the most recent gubernatorial election in 6 in 8 congressional districts. Early analysis shows that the signatures may only meet the requirement in 4 of 8 districts.
“We are highly suspect that they collected the petitions necessary. They did not meet the requirements to file the petitions. We see a lot of irregularities and a lot of pages that were not properly qualified. In this early phase, we believe that it may not appear on the ballot. They did not meet the requirements in 6 of 8 congressional districts and that is a real problem.”
Roe is confident that the legislative proposal will be passed, regardless of the prediction that voter turnout will be low due to the top of the ticket being unopposed.
“Not only do the initiatives help motivate Republicans more than Democrats, but it helps Republicans to go to the polls,” Roe said. “It did help us in that manner because Republicans are more likely to be consistent voters than Democrats. We have an opportunity to pass a good proposal.”
Copies of the early voting petitions have been distributed to local election authorities for signature verification, who have until July 29, 2014 to approve the signatures before being approved by the Secretary of State’s office to be put on the Nov. 4, 2014 ballot alongside the legislative proposal.
The proclamation was set by Gov. Jay Nixon the Friday before Memorial Day.
Missouri Jobs with Justice could not be reached for comment after several attempts.
Rachael Herndon was the editor at The Missouri Times and also produced This Week in Missouri Politics, published Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosted the #MoLeg podcast. She joined The Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.