By Bailey Ludlam and Earl Glynn
Last week the Secretary of State’s office reported twenty-three initiatives as “approved for circulation.” A total of more than 100 were proposed for the 2010 election ballot according to state officials.
Proposals included a wide array of topics, including taxes, eminent domain, judicial reform, abortion and dog breeding reforms.
Supporters of a hotly debated earnings tax initiative filed petition signatures almost a week before the deadline. More than 200,000 signatures were filed. The initiative asks whether voters in Kansas City and St. Louis should hold a referendum on keeping the earnings tax in 2011.
If approved by statewide voters, the question will appear on local ballots in 2011 and every five years thereafter. If the levy is rejected by local voters the tax would be phased out and could not be reinstated.
On May 2, the last day to submit signatures, three initiatives were filed. Missourians for the Protection of Dogs estimate they filed 190,000 signatures in the effort to crack down on puppy mills. If enacted, the initiative would amend statutory laws to cap the number of dogs used for breeding purposes and establish other breeding regulations.
A third petition group, Vote Yes to Stop Double Taxation, filed signatures but declined to provide an estimate. Supporters propose amending the state constitution to prevent states, counties and political subdivisions from imposing any new tax on the sale or transfer of homes.
In a last minute effort, Show Me Better Courts turned in more than 250,000 signatures from all nine congressional districts; surpassing the state’s petition requirements. The minimum requirement is six. The initiative calls for a constitutional amendment that would allow the governor, with the confirmation of the state senate, to select judges for the Missouri Supreme Court.
To qualify for the ballot, initiatives must gather a minimum number of signatures from at least two-thirds of the state’s congressional districts (currently six of nine). Initiatives seeking statutory changes require a minimum of 5% of the total votes cast for governor in the most recent election, while constitutional amendments require 8%.
In other words, a total of about 95,000 signatures for statutory changes and 150,000 for constitutional amendments are needed.
In the next few days the state office will divide the petitions into each of the 116 election authorities: 114 counties, 1 for Kansas City and 1 for St. Louis. The petitions are then verified by the corresponding local election officials. Election officials have until August 3 to issue “certificate(s) of sufficiency” for initiatives that qualify for the ballot.
Two measures are already certified for the ballot, both referred by the state legislature. On election day voters will be asked if disabled former prisoners of war should be exempt from property taxes and if assessors in charter counties should be elected. Both would amend the state’s constitution.
RELATED: 2010 marks the 100 year anniversary of the first initiative that appeared on the Missouri ballot. On May 2, Ballotpedia released a report covering Missouri’s ballot measure history and legal structure. Bailey Ludlam, the author of the analysis, notes that voters in Missouri have access to 6 of the most common 7 forms of direct democracy. Ludlam’s report compares the relative approval rates of legislative referrals versus citizen initiatives and reviews the impact of extensive ballot title litigation on initiatives.