National Voter Group Honors Missouri Lawmaker
Lake Ridge, Virginia: Today, Citizens in Charge Foundation, a national voter rights group dedicated to protecting the ballot initiative and referendum process, presented Missouri State Senator Jim Lembke with the April 2010 John Lilburne Award for sponsoring Senate Bill 818 and for all his work to make Missouri’s initiative process more open and accessible to the people.
“Senator Lembke is working to empower the people of Missouri, to give them more say-so, and his legislation is the best in the entire nation in protecting the rights of citizens to petition their government,” said Citizens in Charge Foundation President Paul Jacob. “Senator Lembke’s bill, SB 818, protects those proposing initiatives from being blocked by time-consuming lawsuits, protects those signing petitions from having their signatures thrown out over minor errors and protects the public against fraudulent actions or intimidation tactics.”
Lembke’s legislation, SB 818, makes it easier for citizens to use their constitutional right to initiative and referendum in three major ways: (1) SB 818 would prevent the current practice of tossing out otherwise valid petition signatures over minor technical errors made by the circulator of the petition, a notary public or others, (2) the bill makes it a crime both for a person circulating a petition to intentionally mislead a signer and for a person to purposely harass or intimidate someone circulating or signing a petition, and (3) SB 818 establishes time limits for courts to resolve legal challenges to a ballot measure’s title or fiscal impact statement, so that opponents can no longer run out the petition clock through litigation.
“In recent years, Missouri’s generally excellent process of initiative and referendum has run into problems – particularly the endless litigation over ballot titles that has unfairly blocked several petitions,” added Jacob. “Senator Lembke has put forward a common sense solution to this legal stalling as well as other problems voters face.”
Senate Bill 818 passed out of the Senate Elections Committee in February, but has not yet come to a vote on the floor. Senator Lembke has been a great advocate for the initiative process in the past, and we urge him to continue his great work by pushing for a vote on Senate Bill 818. A companion bill, HB 2180, has been filed in the Missouri House by Rep. Brian Nieves (R-Union).