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Authority of the Missouri Secretary of State
The Missouri Secretary of State has the authority to reject initiative petitions from the ballot that do not meet constitutional and statutory requirements. Specifically, Section 116.120 of Missouri Revised Statutes states:
“When an initiative or referendum petition is submitted to the secretary of state, he or she shall examine the petition to determine whether it complies with the Constitution of Missouri and with this chapter.”
This section grants the secretary of state, once signatures have been collected or he/she is presented with a referendum petition, the ability to reject ballot questions that do not comply with that section of revised statutes or the Missouri Constitution.

One such constitutional requirement that the secretary of state must consider when complying with Section 116.120 is if the petition complies with the single subject clause of the Missouri Constitution. Specifically, Article III, Section 50 of the Missouri Constitution states:
“Petitions for laws shall not contain more than one subject which shall be expressed clearly in the title.”
This section requires that any ballot question or petition to change the Missouri Constitution may ONLY contain a single subject.
Enforcement of the Single Subject Rule
In any instance where an initiative petition violates the single subject requirement of the Missouri Constitution, the secretary of state is required by Section 116.120 to reject that petition from the ballot in accordance with his/her responsibilities under Section 116.120 of the Missouri Revised Statutes.

Both the Missouri Supreme Court and the Missouri Attorney General have affirmed the view that this is within the authority of the Missouri Secretary of State. In Missourians to Protect the Initiative Petition Process vs Blunt (1990), the Missouri Supreme Court considered a case challenging whether a measure should be on the ballot that opponents argued violated the single subject rule applicable to initiative petitions. In its decision, the Court stated:
“Under [section 116.120], the Secretary of State is charged with determining whether the petition ‘complies with the Constitution of Missouri and with this chapter [116.120.1]. If the legislature had only intended that the Secretary of State count signatures, it could have so stated. But the language used mandates a more extensive examination. At minimum, [116.120.1] requires the Secretary of State to examine the petition to ensure that the threshold requirements of Article III, Section 50 have been met. That necessarily requires the Secretary of State to examine the proposal to ensure it does not contain multiple subjects.”

In a subsequent Attorney General opinion the next year, Attorney General Webster echoed that opinion when he stated:

“The Secretary of State shall determine whether an initiative petition has more than one subject at the time of review after signatures have been collected, as required by Section 116.120, and Missourians to Protect the Initiative Petition Process v Blunt.”
Failures of Secretary of State John “Jay” Ashcroft
Since taking office in 2017, Secretary of State John “Jay” Ashcroft has repeatedly failed in his responsibilities to ensure multiple subject petitions were rejected from the ballot under Section 116.120.
  • 2022 – Amendment 3 (Marijuana Legalization); Violation of Article III, Section 50 for multiple subjects
    • Subjects include legalization of marijuana for recreational use, change criminal law related to expungement procedures for previous criminal offenses, the creation of a new tax of marijuana industry activities, the creation of equity and inclusion offices within Missouri state government
    • Action taken under Section 116.120 by Secretary of State Ashcroft to reject Amendment 3 from ballot: NO ACTION TAKEN
  • 2022 – Amendment 1 (Duties of State Treasurer); Violation of Article III, Section 50 for multiple subjects
    • Subjects include expansion of State Treasurer’s authority to invest state cash flow assets, expansion of legislative power to override State Treasurer decisions on where and what to invest state cash resources into.
    • Action taken under Section 116.120 by Secretary of State Ashcroft to reject Amendment 1 from ballot: NO ACTION TAKEN
  • 2020 – Amendment 2 (Medicaid Expansion); Violation of Article III, Section 50 for multiple subjects; Violation of Article III, Section 51 for failing to identify funding mechanisms for new expenditures
    • Subjects include changing eligibility requirements for adults in Missouri, narrowing the legislature's ability to make further restrictions on state programs, requiring the legislature to increase receipt of federal dollars for state programs.
    • Action taken under Section 116.120 by Secretary of State Ashcroft to reject Amendment 2 from ballot: NO ACTION TAKEN
  • 2018 – Amendment 1 (“CLEAN” Missouri); Violation of Article III, Section 50 for multiple subjects; Violation of Article III
    • Subjects include eliminating the state position of demographer and empowering the state auditor to influence who draws redistricting maps, alter the criteria in state law to alter redistricting maps, change the threshold of allowable lobbyist gifts, enact new lower campaign contribution limits.
    • Action taken under Section 116.120 by Secretary of State Ashcroft to reject Amendment 1 from ballot: NO ACTION TAKEN
  • 2018 – Proposition B (Minimum Wage Law); Violation of Article III, Section 50 for multiple subjects; Violation of Article III
    • Subjects include raising the minimum wage, enacting new penalties against employers for minimum wage violations, granting certain exemptions to certain government employees from existing and new minimum wage laws.
    • Action taken under Section 116.120 by Secretary of State Ashcroft to reject Proposition B from ballot: NO ACTION TAKEN
  • 2018 – Proposition D (Tax Law changes); Violation of Article III, Section 50 for multiple subjects; Violation of Article III
    • Subjects include raising the gas tax, enacting an income tax exemption for Olympic athletes who won an Olympic medal, and creating a new government fund to accept certain revenues to manage state roads.
    • Action taken under Section 116.120 by Secretary of State Ashcroft to reject Proposition D from ballot: NO ACTION TAKEN

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