Statewide Initiative Petition for NonPartisan Elections Is A Hot Mess

huxleyWednesday, Damien Johnson submitted four initiative petition drafts with the Missouri Secretary of State. Johnson works in the initiative petition industry, was treasurer of Democrat Dylan Hassinger’s recent state senate campaign, and previously a Republican activist and GOP candidate for 64th District State Representative.

Three of his petitions are marijuana related.  I have not compared them except to see that one is more of a right to grow petition and two are in depth legalization.

But 2018-003 is an initiative petition to replace political party August primaries and party label November general elections with November nonpartisan elections with runoffs to follow for some elected offices. Some.

These petitions are in the public comment phase. Later they could be approved for signature collection.

This nonpartisan elections petition is a hot mess.

The petitions covers U.S. Senate, U.S. House, Missouri Senate, Missouri House, and all statewide offices except State Auditor, which would remain a partisan primary and general election every four years. It also does not cover county offices, meaning they would continue to be elected by partisan primary and general elections. This amendment would set up a two tier election system for state offices, certainly one more costly than present.

Filing fee for these nonpartisan offices would be $100 or less and no signature collection would be required, meaning every Tom, Dick, and Harry would file and the ballots will be many, many, many pages long.

The November election for the nonpartisan offices would require a winner to earn 50% of the vote or there would be a run-off election. Given the time needed to certify the first vote and set things up for the run-off, the second vote would be between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s guaranteed to be lower turnout because of holiday season, let alone the possibility of the first snow complicating matters.

Let me also point out that this post-November election period is when newly elected legislators participate in freshmen orientation. This is when they learn the Senate/House Rules and procedures, get staffed, and receive introductions to agencies, before their swearing in and session begins the first week in January.

Most disturbing about this proposal is the part were we would still have August elections for ballot issues, most surely low turnout because the only other elections on the ballot will be county office primaries. While I can find no link between this petition and Rex Sinquefield, certainly he stands the most to gain from this proposal.

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

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GOP Wants Fill In The Blank Poll Tax Constitutional Amendment

Republican legislators in Missouri want another handout. This time, they want taxpayers to foot the bill for endless lawsuits on one of their red meat agenda items- poll taxes, also known as Voter Identification requirements.

When you require people to spend money in order to vote, it’s a poll tax. Requiring people to pay for documentation necessary to secure a Photo Identification Card before they cast a ballot is requiring them to pay a poll tax.

“Shall the Constitution of Missouri be amended to state that voters may be required by law, which may be subject to exception, to verify one’s identity, citizenship, and residence by presenting identification that may include valid government-issued photo identification?”

That’s the ballot language for the first constitutional amendment proposed this year in the Missouri House: HJR1 by State Rep. Tony Duggar (Wright and Webster Counties).

The object is to get voters to adopt a generic enabling provision for Voter Identification into the Missouri Constitution. It’s a one time expense to the GOP. After it’s in the Constitution, Republicans have the votes in the General Assembly to fill in the details deliberately left out of the constitutional amendment- a poll tax bill every legislative session if they want. And, each time, there will be a court challenge and the Missouri Attorney General will have to defend the poll tax, with you and me picking up the tab.

Sure. The GOP dominated legislature can require Motor Vehicle fee offices to provide free State Identification Cards.

But that free State Identification Card will require documentation that is not free and, in some cases, not easy to obtain.

You will need a Certified Copy of your Birth Certificate to get an ID Card.  In Missouri, that Birth Certificate will cost you $15.

Sure. The GOP dominated legislature can require the Missouri Department of Health to issue free Birth Certificate copies.

But that free Birth Certificate copy will require you to show a State Identification Card, which you will never get because you cannot get the Birth Certificate copy.

Lather. Rinse Repeat.

And what could possibly go wrong when ordering a copy of your Birth Certificate from the State of Missouri?

You find out that your name is misspelled on your Birth Certificate.

You find out the State of Missouri has lost your Birth Certificate.

You find out that you have no Birth Certificate in the name you have always used because it turns out you were adopted and your adoptive parents didn’t file for an amended Birth Certificate.

You find out that there is no record of your birth in Missouri and anyone who might have known where you were really born is deceased.

In cases where a Birth Certificate problem can be corrected by the State of Missouri, it can take months.

Now a married woman who took her husband’s surname after the ceremony will also need a Certified Copy of her Marriage License, in addition to her Birth Certificate. If you married in Missouri, you’ll pay $9-$12 for that copy. It’s unlikely that the GOP dominated legislature would do anything about making those copies free. $7 of that fee goes to the Missouri Children’s Trust Fund and the rest goes to county general revenue. The State would have to replace that income because of the Hancock Amendment.

Then there’s the part where not everyone living in Missouri, who wants to vote here, was born here. The GOP dominated legislature certainly cannot force other states to give out free copies of Birth Certificates and Marriage Licenses.

In the end, it’s a poll tax and courts will see it that way. But that’s not the point. It’s not about policy making or statesmanship or good government or even less government. It’s about red meat. It’s about conning Missouri voters into giving the GOP an annual opportunity to write absurd legislation that taxpayers then have to pay to defend.

So when Missouri House Speaker John Diehl says there is No Ferguson Agenda, he means there will be nothing helpful. He does not mean that Republicans will not take advantage of the times and feed their rural constituents with the red meat of disenfranchising urban voters.

— Marie Ceselski