10.01.2008 0

Petition-Gathering to be Restricted in Missouri

  • On: 10/08/2008 14:15:39
  • In: First Amendment
  • If a new bill in the Missouri State Legislature becomes law, it will become significantly harder to gather signatures for ballot initiatives.

    Included in the changes proposed in House Bill No. 1761, out-of-state residents would be prohibited from gathering signatures for petitions in Missouri, and the compensation of signature-gatherers on a per-signature basis would also be banned. The bill was introduced by Representative Rachel Storch (D-64th district).

    The referendum process in Missouri currently allows for non-residents to be hired as signature-gatherers, and there currently are no restrictions on how signature-gatherers are to be paid.

    These new anti-democratic restrictions are clearly intended to restrict the number of initiatives that will ultimately make it to the ballot for ratification.

    Citizens and not-for-profit organizations alike would unjustly have limited their abilities to petition their government.

    In addition, sponsors would be restricted from offering signature-gatherers incentives for returning with more signatures. Under the new law, if signature-gatherers are to be paid, it would have to be on an hourly or salaried basis.

    Paying per signature is a common-sense and cost-effective means of ensuring that signature-gatherers are getting their jobs done. And it allows organizations to effectively budget for signature-gathering. By restricting it, Missouri is too closely micromanaging a process that by right belongs to the people.

    That’s because the new restrictions effectively violate the First Amendment rights of Missourians. Particularly, the right of the people to petition the government for a redress of grievances would certainly be infringed, as it would become a lot harder to do just that. Government is not supposed to have any role whatsoever in determining how the people choose to petition, how they assemble, what they say, what they print, how they distribute campaign materials, etc.

    But that’s just what House Bill No. 1761 does. The restriction of freedom is the restriction of choice. And there is no doubt that as a result, the people of Missouri will have fewer choices on the ballot, because a smaller number of initiatives will make it to ballot.

    ALG Perspective:
    Whether a ballot initiative is good or bad is something for the petition signers to decide based upon the petition’s merits. Nothing more. If a proposal is a good one that offers genuine reform, it will gain favor with the people.

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