The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

March 4, 2008

In our view: We have a right to use petitions

Not everyone likes initiative petitions. For one thing, they bypass the legislative process. For another, they can clutter up an election-day ballot.

But the biggest critics are those who disagree with what might wind up before voters.

The Missouri House has passed legislation that would impose new requirements on people who circulate petitions for signatures and impede the collection of enough signatures to force an issue onto the ballot.

While there have been any number of initiative-petition ballot issues over the years that we thought unnecessary or that we opposed, Missourians have the constitutional right to use the process and, for the most part, it appears to have worked reasonably well.

What the proposed law would accomplish is to require that petition circulators are residents of Missouri, that they can’t be paid based on the number of signatures they collect, they can circulate only one petition issue at a time and must register before they begin the collection of signatures rather than before the deadline for filing the petitions.

Limiting the circulators to Missouri residents is not a bad idea. But the restrictions that they can’t be paid by the number of signatures, that they can’t collect signatures for more than one petition issue at a time and that they must register early clearly are intended to scuttle the initiative-petition process.

The question for Missourians involves the constitutional right to enact laws and approve constitutional amendments that the Legislature has failed to provide.

Essentially, what legislators are telling Missourians is that they shouldn’t interfere so much with the way the lawmakers are doing business. Without the initiative petitions, Missouri might not have riverboat casinos, term limits for legislators, a ban on cockfighting or a stem-cell amendment to encourage research into curing or alleviating a variety of serious diseases and nerve injuries.

We believe that Missourians are smart enough to decide for themselves whether to sign an initiative petition. They also are smart enough to decide on election day whether to vote in favor or against an initiative-petition issue. After all, these are the people who voted legislators into office, aren’t they?

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