While some politicos spent last night celebrating a clear path to the November ballot, others hit an impasse.
One of them was not a candidate, but a campaign coalition calling itself Cap the Rate! Raise the Wage! The campaign wants two ballot initiatives in front of voters this fall -- one to raise the minimum wage, another to cap interest rates on payday loans. But Secretary of State Robin Carnahan ruled yesterday that neither measure obtained enough valid petition signatures to make it to election day.
Progress Missouri Executive Director Sean Soendker Nicholson is calling shenanigans.
"The numbers are just really, strangely low," he says.
The "Missourians for Responsible Lending" campaign wants a ballot initiative that would place a 36 percent ceiling on the interest rate of payday loans, which currently weigh in at an average of 431 percent. The "Give Missourians a Raise" campaign is pushing a measure would bump up the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.25 by 2013. After a statewide signature-gathering effort, the two organizing efforts submitted the petitions to the Secretary of State for validation of the names.
But according to Carnahan's office, the wage measure fell short by 1,601 signatures and the rate measure missed the mark by 270 signatures. The districts that caused the shortfall are in the St. Louis City and County areas.
Nicholson says that the rates that came out of these districts were so low that he's suspicious. While Jefferson County came back with an 80 percent validity rate and Boon County rose to 76 percent valid, St. Louis had an abysmal 49 percent. His group is requesting the annotated signature forms now and will spend the next several weeks slogging through to find as many improperly invalidated signatures as they can. They hope a judge will reverse yesterday's decision. Nicholson points out that four other initiatives in recent history have successfully challenged their low signature counts and made it to the ballot.
"It could take a month to get this all sorted out," he says. "These are both incredibly popular proposals. We feel really confident."
Meanwhile, it's smooth sailing for two other ballot initiatives -- a 73 cent increase to the tobacco tax, and city control of the St. Louis police.