GOP consultant questions early voting signatures

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 | 12:55 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — A Republican political consultant is questioning whether supporters of an early voting initiative gathered enough valid signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

Supporters said they submitted about 300,000 signatures earlier this month for a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow people to vote up to six weeks in advance of Missouri elections, including on weekends.

To make the ballot, election officials must determine that those signatures are from registered voters and that they equal at least 8 percent of the vote cast in the 2012 gubernatorial election in six of Missouri's eight congressional districts.

Republican consultant Jeff Roe, who operates Kansas City-based Axiom Strategies, said his firm used a state Sunshine Law request to receive a sampling of the petition pages submitted to the secretary of state's office. That sample equaled 10 percent of the petition pages for many counties but was higher in some, such as St. Louis city, and lower in others, such as St. Louis County.

Based on the number of signatures on those sampled petitions, the firm projected that supporters gathered way more signatures than needed in the 1st District in St. Louis and the 5th District, which extends eastward from Kansas City. Roe projected that the number of valid signatures could fall short of the threshold in four other districts — the 2nd in suburban St. Louis, the 3rd in east-central Missouri, the 7th in southwest Missouri and the 8th in southeast Missouri.

"It appears from our research that they did not qualify" for the ballot, Roe said.

The official determination will be made by the Secretary of State Jason Kander after local election authorities review the signatures. Kander has until Aug. 5 to decide whether initiatives qualify for the November ballot.

Attorney Matt Dameron, who is treasurer for the group backing the early voting initiative, said supporters did not target the 3rd and 8th districts, so those signatures likely are below the threshold.

But "my understanding is that we turned in signatures well in excess of the necessary number in six of the eight congressional districts," Dameron said. "We're confident we'll still make the ballot."

Dameron is a former chief of staff to Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster, who is planning to run for governor in 2016. If the early voting measure qualifies for the ballot and passes, it would be in place for the 2016 elections.

The initiative campaign has been financed by Democratic allies, such as labor unions and law firms that represent injury victims in liability cases. In April, the Missouri Early Voting Fund received $100,000 from Priorities USA Action, a liberal group that has said it will back Hillary Rodham Clinton if she runs for president in 2016.

Missouri's Republican-led legislature referred a rival early voting measure to the November ballot. It would allow six days of early voting but not on Saturdays and Sundays.

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