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Missouri Supreme Court declines to take up abortion referendum lawsuit


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The legal challenge regarding a referendum petition for the sweeping anti-abortion bill has been denied transfer to Missouri’s highest court, making the appellate court’s decision final.

On Friday, the Missouri Supreme Court rejected the transfer request from the ACLU of Missouri, which filed the lawsuit against Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft for rejecting the referendum on constitutional grounds. The Western District Court of Appeals sided with the ACLU on Monday.

“To me, it’s not just about my authority, but my responsibility. It’s my responsibility to the people of Missouri to tell them when something is filed unconditionally before they go through the hard work and financial expenditure — not after,” Ashcroft said in a statement. “The being said, I will follow the court’s ruling. My office will prepare the proposed ballot summary statement and forward it to the attorney general’s office for review and follow the timeline that the law requires.”

View Ashcroft’s full statement here

The court ordered Ashcroft withdraw his rejection of the petition based on constitutional grounds and send written notice “immediately” to the ACLU of Missouri approving the referendum as sufficient to form.

Once ballot language is approved, signatures can begin to be collected. The ACLU will need to gather and submit signatures from 5 percent of legal voters in six of eight congressional districts — at least 100,126 Missourians — by August 28 to put it on the ballot.

Part of the ACLU’s argument is that if Ashcroft had not rejected the referendum, supporters could have started collecting signatures on July 18. However, with the process restarting, they could end up with only two weeks to circulate the petition. 

“While it is fantastic that the courts have made clear that he acted illegally, he may well succeed in preventing voters from getting their say on this important issue,” said Anthony Rothert, interim executive director at the ACLU of Missouri. “Ashcroft’s tenure as Missouri’s chief election officer continues to be marked by efforts to prevent Missourians from voting.”

Ashcroft must approve abortion referendum for circulation, appeals court rules