Signature verification deadline for Missouri top-four ranked-choice voting initiative is August 9

In Missouri, there are two citizen-initiated measures pending signature verification. One would enact an electoral system combining top-four primaries and ranked-choice voting for general elections. The other proposal would legalize marijuana in the state. The state must verify whether enough signatures have been collected by August 9.

The electoral system initiative would replace partisan primaries with open top-four primaries for state executive, state legislative, and congressional offices. The ballot initiative would establish ranked-choice voting, also known as instant-runoff voting, for general elections, in which voters can rank the four candidates that succeeded from the primaries. The system would be similar to Alaska’s, where voters approved an initiative in 2020. 

Better Elections, the campaign behind the electoral system initiative, reported submitting more than 300,000 signatures on May 8. In Missouri, there is no statewide signature requirement; rather, proponents of initiated constitutional amendments need to collect signatures equal to 8 percent of the votes cast in the previous gubernatorial election in six of the eight state congressional districts. The smallest possible number of signatures required for an initiated amendment is 171,592.

Source: Ballotpedia

In June, Better Elections spokesman Scott Charton said, “There may not be sufficient signatures under Missouri law to give voters a chance to say yes to the Better Elections Amendment. The final counts from counties are still coming in, and we’re watching them closely.” Sean Nicholson, the campaign manager, said the signature issue was “a catastrophic failure on the part of Fieldworks,” the firm that Better Elections hired to organize a signature drive. Nicholson said the COVID-19 pandemic and a large number of signatures from unregistered people were some of the biggest obstacles. Fieldworks also addressed the issue, saying, “We share our client’s frustration. Signature gathering campaigns have faced unprecedented challenges in the last two years everywhere in the country. Our industry is not immune from the current workforce conditions.”

Missouri is one of 16 states with a signature distribution requirement for citizen-initiated measures. Of those 16, Missouri is one of five states where the distribution requirement is based on congressional districts. The other 10 states with an initiative or referendum process do not have distribution requirements.

If neither of the two initiatives pending signature verification make the ballot, 2022 would be the first even-numbered year since 1986 to feature no citizen-initiated ballot measures.