Secretary of State proposes adding $500 fee to file a petition

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JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri’s Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft proposed Missouri change the fee for filing a petition against Missouri government from zero dollars to $500.

That’s just the start as Ashcroft also proposed charging 40 cents per signature to help pay the clerks who verify each signature.

The $500 fee would be waived if the petition garnered enough signatures to to put the proposal on Missourians’ ballots.

With the fees, to file a constitutional amendment, it would cost petitioners about $65,000.

But Ashcroft said he’s trying to save taxpayers’ money.

“Even before people vote on it, this [current] process requires the people, the state of Missouri to subsidize outside interests trying to change the laws the people of Missouri live under,” he said. “I agree the people should have this right, but they shouldn’t have to subside special interest that want to impose laws from outside of Missouri on them."

This year, Missourians have already filed 350 petitions; last year, the total number was 225. Ten years ago, the number was 15. 

Those opposing the change are arguing it’s an infringement on freedom of speech.

Travis Brown, the CEO of First Rule who works to advance issues for Missourians onto the ballot, said, “We didn’t put a price tag on what’s free and what’s not. I think our founding fathers intended free speech to mean according to our own expression and its not up to state or local government.”

Ashcroft still argued a fee would be positive for Missourians.

“I think it would cut it down on the number of initiative petitions that are filed so that the petitions that are filed these would be ones that people would actually get signatures on them and are actually trying to get the law changed.”

Lobbyist Woody Cozad said he thinks much of the cost could be offset if technology was used to file the petitions. “Can we avoid some of these burdens with technological answers rather than with money fees and things that discourage people from exercising their rights?”

The bill has been through committees and will likely be debated in the coming months.