JEFFERSON CITY – The fates of proposed ballot initiatives increasing the state’s minimum wage and capping interest rates on payday loans are once again in doubt.
Secretary of State Robin Carnahan announced Tuesday that supporters of the two measures failed to collect enough signatures for the initiatives to be placed on the November ballot.
Two other initiatives – one raising state tobacco taxes and another allowing St. Louis control of its police department – did meet the signature requirement and were certified by Carnahan’s office.
To make the ballot, initiatives need signatures from registered voters equal to 5 percent of the votes cast in the 2008 governor's election from six of Missouri's nine congressional districts.
Petitions are reviewed at local election offices and then submitted to the secretary of state for a final count.
Both the minimum wage and payday loan measures fell short in the 1st Congressional District, where 15,080 signatures were needed. Carnahan’s office says the minimum wage initiative had only 13,989 verified signatures and payday lending had only 14,810.
The minimum wage measure also fell short in the 3rd District, where Carnahan said only 15,099 signatures could be verified. The required number was 15,609.
The petition sponsors – organizations called Missourians for Responsible Lending and Give Missourians a Raise – contend the secretary of state's office and local election boards failed to count valid signatures. The groups submitted approximately 176,346 signatures for the payday loan measure and 167,304 signatures for the minimum wage.
In a joint statement, the groups said they would examine all legal options but remained confident that there were more than enough valid signatures to put the issues before voters in November.
“Initial data obtained from local authorities indicate that a significant number of signatures were improperly invalidated in St. Louis City,” the groups said in their statement. “ It is our intention to examine each signature not validated by the local agencies to make sure that every registered voter who signed a petition has his or her voice heard.”
If a lawsuit is filed it will start in Cole County Circuit Court, which has overturned initial signature counts on ballot initiatives four times in the last five election cycles.
Most recently, a judge in 2008 ordered a renewable energy initiative to be placed on the ballot one month after Carnahan rejected the petition and said it had failed to gather enough signatures in one of the state's congressional districts.
In 2006, an initiative raising the state’s tobacco tax fell 274 names short of the required mark in the Kansas City area. A judge eventually ruled that an additional 1,004 signatures should have been verified as valid by local election authorities, and ordered it placed on the ballot.
The payday lending initiative seeks to institute a 36 percent interest rate cap on short-term loans. The minimum wage initiative seeks to increase the state's minimum wage to $8.25 per hour.
Both measures were dealt a setback earlier this year when a judge ruled the summaries and cost estimates that would appear on the ballot were insufficient. But that ruling was overturned last week by the Missouri Supreme Court, leaving Carnahan's certification of signatures as the final hurdle.
Missouri is one of 24 states that allow citizens to initiate proposed changes to state statutes or the constitution.