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The Initiative Process

On this week's Mission Monday, we take a look at the initiative process, how it works, its successes in the past, and why we support it.

The Missouri Ballot Initiative & Referendum Process started in the early 20th century, with efforts made by the Missouri Direct Legislation League, St, Louis Attorney Silas L. Moser, among others. The bill to create this process was first proposed in 1904, which failed in both the Legislature and a 53,000 vote margin of Missouri Voters. In 1907 a similar bill was proposed that passed by a 35,000 vote margin.

The very first initiative to pass was in 1920, requiring a new Missouri State Constitution, which was its fourth Constitution as a state. In 1924 and 1928 highway maintenance and funding were passed. In the 1930's, the Missouri Conservation Commission was created. Ballot initiatives continued to be sought after, put on the ballot, and either passed or failed continuously through the state's history, including today.

In recent history, the 2020 ballot initiatives in Missouri included the Initiated Constitutional Amendment number 2, which expanded healthcare access under the Affordable Care Act, which passed. Additionally, two Legislatively Referred Constitutional Amendments (LRCA) appeared, number 1 which set term limits for the Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, State Auditor, and Attorney General—which failed. The second LRCA was addressed the redistricting process and criteria, lobbying, and campaign finance which did pass.

The process of the Initiative and Referendum Process is currently under attack by the Missouri Republicans, who seek to restrict the right to voter-created initiatives. Here are the current steps to the initiative process:

  1. Step 1: The petition must be submitted to the Secretary of State's (SoS) office.

  2. Step 2: The petition is then sent to the Attorney General's and State Auditor's Office for review.

  3. Step 3: The petition is posted on the SoS website for public comment.

  4. Step 4: The Attorney General and State Auditor submit report to the SoS on the initiative process.

  5. Step 5: The Secretary of State approves or denies the petition within 15 days of original receipt.

  6. Step 6: The final petition is sent to the Attorney General for final approval and posted on the SoS website.

  7. Step 7: Petition Circulators must collect signatures for the ballot petition, to be delivered 6 months before the election to the Secretary of State.

  8. Step 8: The signatures are counted and verified by local election authorities. Statutory changes require 5% of the congressional districts to have signed the ballot petition, while Constitutional Changes require 8% of all congressional districts.

  9. The Ballot Measure is now on the ballot.

As Democrats we support the will of the people, and we wish to highlight the voices of us voters. The Ballot and Referendum Process allow us citizens to collectively work to pass measures to better our state, even if legislators will not act. In a system of checks and balances, the Initiative Process secures the power of the people to determine the future of our state.

Working together we must ensure the Ballot and Referendum Process is protected, and the voices of the people are heard.

Here is what we can do:

  • Elect officials who will protect our rights and voices

  • Call upon our legislators to oppose attacks on the Initiative Process

  • Inform our neighbors about this process, and why we need to protect it

  • Volunteer with organization who support and work to defend the Ballot and Referendum Process.

We have to work together to get this done. Join us by volunteering, signing up for our emails, or donating today.

For more information, check out the Secretary of State Website and The Missouri Times.


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