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Columbia Missourian

Eminent domain group challenges ballot decision

By CHRIS BLANK/The Associated Press
August 15, 2008 | 5:17 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY  — A group trying to restrict eminent domain is challenging the secretary of state's decision that two proposed constitutional amendments didn't get enough signatures to make the November ballot.

Ron Calzone, the leader of the group pushing for the eminent domain petitions, said Friday that he believes the secretary of state's office wrongly invalidated thousands of signatures that had been submitted. The eminent domain petitions fell several thousand signatures short of the required signatures.

"It's pretty easy in the hustle and bustle of that effort to make some mistakes, and we think some mistakes were made," Calzone said.

The secretary of state's office announced last week that the eminent domain ballot measure and a separate petition seeking to require the use of more renewable energy hadn't gotten enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. Friday was the deadline to file challenges over the ballot measure's certification.

Ballot measures changing the state constitution require signatures from more than 8 percent of the votes cost in the 2004 governor election from six of Missouri's nine congressional districts. That amounts to 140,000 to 150,000 signatures.

The eminent domain measure sought to amend the Missouri Constitution in two places to bar the use of eminent domain by nongovernment entities and for private use. It was broken into separate initiative petitions, but both fell several thousand signatures short of the 28,787 signatures needed in the Second Congressional District, which covers Lincoln and parts of St. Charles and St. Louis counties.

The lawsuit filed by Calzone in the Capitol's home of Cole County on Thursday contends that the secretary of state's office wrongly tossed out some signatures because the petition-gatherer was believed to have not registered when he or she had. Other signatures, the suit contends, weren't counted because the address on the petition and the address on file with local election authorities didn't perfectly match.

Calzone said that if both addresses are in the same congressional district, then the signatures should count.

A spokesman for Secretary of State Robin Carnahan said that state law requires petition signatures to be tossed out if they were collected by a gatherer who has not properly registered.

Lawsuits have also been filed challenging a separate initiative petition that was certified for the ballot. The ballot measure bars the construction of new casinos while repealing a state law limiting gambling losses to $500 per two-hour period.

Two lawsuits have been filed in Cole County that seek to strip the casino measure from the ballot, arguing that the initiative petition is unconstitutional because it contains more than one subject.

Those lawsuits were filed by antigambling activists and by a Sugar Creek lawmaker and Cape Girardeau businessman who each support building new casinos.