JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – In a message to election authorities across Missouri, Secretary of State Jason Kander boldly stated he would certify the Early Childhood Education and Health Amendment is it attains the required number of signatures, despite its ordeal in the courts last week.
The Western District Court of Appeals determined in a court case that the summary statement of the initiative petition circulated to collect signatures was “unfair,” and the Supreme Court rejected calls by Kander and the petition’s sponsor, Raise Your Hands for Kids, to rehear the case.
Opponents of the initiative petition said that statute states that a petition that collected signatures found to have any kind of misleading language should have its signatures invalidated. However, Kander sided with calls for the petition to stay on the ballot, should the 300,000-plus signatures turned in by the organization be certified
“The intent of the law was not to disenfranchise Missourians after they have legally signed a petition,” Kander’s office wrote to election officials. “If this petition has enough valid signatures and meets the requirements for certification, the Secretary of State’s office will certify it for the ballot, just like every other petition.”
Supporters of the measure were understandably excited about Kander’s decision, especially given the uncertainty that surrounded the IP’s survival last week. Erin Brower, the board chair of RYH4K, thanked supporters and Kander in a statement.
“We owe our victories to the dedication of our supporters,” she said. “We look forward to passing the Early Childhood Health and Education Amendment and providing more than $300 million each year in dedicated funding to Missouri’s kids.”
— RaiseYourHandforKids (@RYH4KMO) July 18, 2016
Jane Dueker, who became an attorney of record for RYH4K last week on the lawsuit, also praised the decision after calling for it last week.
“We are thrilled with Secretary of State Kander’s decision to protect the constitutional rights of the 330,000 citizen proponents of this initiative to fund early childhood education and healthcare,” she said in a statement. “We look forward to Nov. 8 when Missourians will raise their hand for kids.”
However, Ron Leone, the executive director Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association which has a rival petition, was less pleased with Kander’s decision. He still insisted that the ballot language change should invalidate the signatures collected for the IP.
“The secretary of state should follow state law. The courts have declared Big Tobacco’s flawed and deceptive scheme wasn’t fairly explained to hundreds of thousands of people who signed their petitions,” Leone said in a statement. “The ballot summary appearing on the petitions being reviewed at taxpayer expense by local election authorities has been ruled ‘unfair,’ ‘insufficient’ to inform voters and ‘likely to mislead voters.’ ”
Chuck Hatfield, the attorney for the plaintiff in the court case, was blunt in his assessment.
“Missouri law declares in plain language that ‘signatures shall not be counted if the official ballot title is not affixed to the page containing such signatures,’ ” he said. “The petitions no longer have an official ballot title and the law is crystal clear that they shall not be counted.”