Petitions, Petitions... - The Missourian: Columns

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Petitions, Petitions...

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Posted: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 6:32 pm

The Missouri Secretary of State’s office reported that a record 143 petitions were submitted for approval for this election cycle. Sunday at 4 p.m. was the deadline under the law for petitions to be submitted to the secretary of state’s office for this election cycle. Four made it just at the deadline.

For a petition seeking to change a Missouri statute, valid signatures from registered voters equal to 5 percent of the total vote cast in the 2008 governor’s election from six of the state’s nine congressional districts (the state has eight districts after the latest census) must be submitted. That means there must be between 91,818 and 99,600 valid signatures, depending on the combination of districts.

To change the Missouri Constitution, valid signatures from registered voters equal to 8 percent of the total votes cast in the 2008 governor’s election from six of the congressional districts must be submitted. That means the number required must be about 146,907 and 159,359 valid signatures.

The secretary of state’s office must organize and review the petitions before sending them to local election authorities in cities and counties to be verified against their voter registration records. Petitions that meet all the legal requirements must be certified as sufficient by 5 p.m. on Aug. 7, 2012.

Yeah, that’s a lot of work!

There have been legal challenges to the wording on petitions and that can delay a final OK.

Why do citizens go through this laborious procedure to get petitions signed and approved? The most commonly heard answer is that they have to go through the initiative petition route because they don’t believe they can get an issue through the General Assembly, which can take even longer to obtain a change in a statute or in the Constitution through an election, or to obtain a new law. In other words, politically they don’t have faith what they seek will ever make it through the House and Senate, and obtain the governor’s signature.

The initiative petition process is costly and takes time. Volunteers and paid signature seekers are used to obtain signatures. They can be annoying but most aren’t and back off quickly if a person rejects their request. We all know some people sign a petition with little or no indepth knowledge of the issue.

This process creates quite a workload for election authorities in checking to see if valid registered voter signatures have been obtained. It takes time.

We don’t know the percentage of petitions that finally emerge from the process compared to the number submitted to the secretary of state’s office. But we see these issues on ballots quite often.

You have to give credit to those people involved in the process in being committed to a cause to see the initiative process through to making it on the ballot. Some of these issues are bankrolled by special interest groups or wealthy individuals, but others are grassroots initiatives.

This process was designed to give the people another path to reach the ballot stage. It is a form of the democratic intent to have government by and for the people. It does work but not without considerable effort.

Why are Missourians seeing more petition drives? Is it frustration with the General Assembly? There are a number of factors that enter into providing answers. Life is more complex today and issue-creating is at an all-time high. There’s more money available to promote causes. There is more poor legislation passed today which means there is more need for corrections. It may be that more people are engaged in our governmental processes today but then in many elections the voter turnout is very poor. Yes, we have more government interference in our lives today and that results in causes to put an end to some laws or to soften them.

This is an interesting era in American government. We have more laws than ever before. We have more attempts to change or kill laws. There is more paralysis of government at the state and federal levels. Politics is as sleazy as ever and there are more destructive electronic tools available than ever before. There is more money involved in the political process. There is no end to causes and efforts to promote them.

Yet the republic that is America survives!

/opinion/columns