The sponsors of one of the initiative petitions that didn’t qualify for the November ballot think it actually should have qualified, and they’re taking the Secretary of State to court over it.
The petition aimed to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would stop the state from creating taxes on the sale of a home. The petition needed signatures to meet a benchmark of 8% of voters from 6 of the 9 congressional districts. They got enough in 4 districts, and came close in 2 more.
“In the 9th District it’s a matter of a few hundred signatures, and I’m very confident that we can find those. In the 3rd District it’s a few thousand signatures, which is a little bigger task,” said Chuck Hatfield, attorney for the Vote “YES” To Stop Double Taxation Committee.
Hatfield says it’s very possible to find a number of “lost signatures” that were incorrectly ruled out by the secretary of state’s office. It’s not without precedent.
“In 2006, the tobacco tax initiative was declared short by 234 signatures and through that process, which I was involved in, we found over 1,000 signatures that had been improperly invalidated. The state trial court agreed and the Supreme Court affirmed and that initiative did go on the ballot in November,” Hatfield said.
But he says there’s another option if they need it.
“The Secretary of State threw out literally thousands of valid signatures of registered voters because they were on pages of circulators who had not registered. The Secretary of State did that because that is what Missouri law, Missouri statute requires. We think that statute may be a violation of Missouri’s constitution. Under the Missouri constitution the voters have the right to go to the ballot and you shouldn’t have your signature invalidated because someone else made a mistake in the processing of the paperwork,” Hatfield said.
But is it possible to get a ruling on a matter like that in time for the November general election?
“I think it is realistic to get it done and actually we’ve gotta get it done in August, September at the latest. Absentee ballots will need to go out in mid-September. So one of the reasons we filed the lawsuit on the day of certification was to get the case moving,” Hatfield said.
He’s hesitant to make predictions on whether or not that constitutional challenge will be necessary.
“Bottom line is, we don’t know yet. The ‘lost votes’ part of it requires us to go back and check every signature, and I’m in the process of having someone do that now. We are finding signatures that were incorrectly counted but were not put through, and so we don’t know exactly how many we’ll recover and whether we can do it without the circulator issue,” Hatfield said.