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EXPERT AVAILABLE: Number of Missouri Ballot Petitions Has Increased Dramatically, MU Expert Says

March 28th, 2013

Story Contact: Nathan Hurst, 573-882-6217,

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­— In Missouri, citizens have the right to file petitions with the state to create ballot measures allowing voters to decide on changes to state laws or amendments to the Missouri constitution. One recent example was the ballot measure in the November 2012 election proposing an increase to the state tobacco tax. David Valentine, a research associate professor in the University of Missouri Truman School of Public Affairs, has compiled a comprehensive list of every petition filed in the state of Missouri since 1910. He found that the number of petitions filed with the office of the Missouri Secretary of State has increased dramatically in the past 10 years.

In order for a petition to reach the ballot in Missouri, it must be approved by the Missouri Secretary of State before it can be circulated to gain signatures. Once approved, organizers for petitions regarding amendments to the state constitution must gain signatures from eight percent of voters in six of the eight congressional districts in Missouri. Petitions to change state laws must be signed by five percent of voters in six of the eight congressional districts. Valentine’s research revealed that in 2004, the Missouri Secretary of State approved 11 petitions to revise Missouri law. That number has increased in each subsequent election and in 2012, 48 petitions were approved for circulation.

“It is interesting to note that despite a major increase in the number of approved petitions in recent years, the number of petitions that actually make it on the ballot has not increased,” Valentine said. “While more and more interest groups are gaining approval for their petitions, gathering the requisite number of signatures still remains a major challenge.”

Valentine also noted that almost all of the statutory petitions submitted to voters in the past two decades originated from moderate to liberal-leaning organizations.

“12 of the 14 statutory initiative petitions submitted to the voters from 1992 to 2012 can be described as moderate to liberal while only one, the 2010 St. Louis and Kansas City earnings tax initiative, has conservative origins,” Valentine said. “Perhaps surprisingly, these trends were evident in the 1990s when Democrats were in the majority in the legislature as well as the 2000s when Republicans held the majority. “

Valentine says his report is the first time every petition in Missouri history has been documented in one place. The report also lists all constitutional amendments and statutory revisions submitted to the voters by the Missouri General Assembly.  In addition, Missouri allows voters to weigh in on legislation approved by the General Assembly through a referendum vote.  These are rare, the most recent occurring in 1982, but they are also include in the report.  To view a full copy of Valentine’s report, visit:

Established by the University of Missouri Board of Curators in May, 2001 the creation of the Harry S Truman School of Public Affairs represented a major commitment to public affairs education, research, and public service by the University of Missouri. The mission of the Truman School is to advance the study and practice of governance in Missouri, the nation, and the world by conducting research, informing governance and public policy, educating for ethical leadership, preparing the next generation of scholars and fostering democratic discourse.