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Signatures submitted to put legalizing abortion, sports wagering on Missouri ballot

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(The Center Square) – The orchestrated parade of rental trucks delivering bank boxes of signed petitions to the Missouri secretary of state’s office ended on Friday, the final business day before a May 5 constitutional deadline.

Organizations desiring to get a measure on the November ballot gathered signatures for the last few months. Signatures of 8% of legal voters in any six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts, or approximately 171,000 voters, must be gathered and certified by Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office to get an initiative on the ballot to change the state constitution.

Organizations submitted signatures to allow voters to legalize abortion, sports wagering and increase the minimum wage and mandate paid sick leave.

Missourians for Constitutional Freedom submitted 380,159 signatures for an initiative to legalize abortion, according to a media release from the organization. After the organization submitted petitions to change the state’s abortion laws last year, Ashcroft contested them.

The Court of Appeals ruled against Ashcroft and the Missouri Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the case. Ashcroft, a candidate for the GOP nomination for governor, maintained his position and said it accurately reflects the scope of the petition.

“Despite every effort to deny Missourians their fundamental rights, this campaign has been our opportunity to put power back into the hands of the people — and in less than three months, Missourians have shown their power,” Mallory Schwarz, spokesperson for Missourians for Constitutional Freedom, said in a statement. “Hundreds of thousands of Missourians are now having conversations about abortion and reproductive freedom; some are sharing their own abortion stories for the very first time; and all are ready to do whatever it takes to win at the ballot box this year.”

Mascots for Missouri’s Major League Baseball teams, the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals, and the National Hockey League’s St. Louis Blues helped the organization, Winning for Missouri Education, deliver 340,000 signatures to allow voters to decide on legalized sports betting. Bills in the legislature have stalled the last few years as lawmakers supporting video lottery terminals held up advancement.

More than 210,000 signatures were submitted to increase the minimum wage to $13.75 by Jan. 1, 2025, and $1.25 per hour each year until 2026, when it would increase to $15 per hour. The minimum wage would be adjusted based on the consumer price index each January beginning in 2027. All employers would be required to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.

“No Missourian should have to choose between a day’s pay and their family’s well-being,” Caitlyn Adams, executive director of Missouri Jobs with Justice, said in a statement. “Tens of thousands of Missourians who work full-time do not get any paid sick days. Missouri’s economy should reward hard work, not punish hard-working people for getting sick.”

Ashcroft’s office can verify signatures through a random sampling of 5% of signatures. If the verification finds less than 90% of the sample in a congressional district are valid, the petition will be deemed insufficient. State law also provides Ashcroft with “authority not to count signatures on initiative or referendum petitions which are, in his opinion, forged or fraudulent signatures.”

The deadline to certify the petitions is 5 p.m. on Aug. 6.

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