Signing petitions

Monday, October 19, 2009

Missouri has a long tradition of direct participation by voters in making state laws and changing the state's constitution. These initiatives are placed on the ballot by petitions, which require from 90,000 to 150,000 signatures.

As of Oct 9, a record 71 initiatives had been proposed, with 24 approved for the signature-gathering process. Eight of those proposals have been withdrawn, leaving 16 petition efforts. Signatures must be turned in by May 2 to the secretary of state. If enough signatures are verified, the measures will be on the ballot in November 2010.

This time-honored process has its pluses and minuses. On the plus side, initiatives allow direct action by voters without filtering through the legislature or being subject to veto. On the minus side, some petitions claim to support a popular change while other, less palatable changes, are buried in hundreds of words of detail.

That was the case last year when voters approved an initiative sold as a funding boost for public education but in reality hamstrung the gaming commission on casino operations. Another was sold as helping in-home caregivers but in realty opened thousands of workers to unionization they might not want.

If you're presented a petition, learn some details before signing.

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