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Appeals court rules to keep marijuana amendment on ballot

Appeals court rules to keep marijuana amendment on ballot

September 21st, 2018 by Bob Watson in Missouri News

The proposed amendment to Missouri's Constitution that, if passed, would allow medical marijuana to be sold and used in the state — known as Amendment 2 — will remain on the Nov. 6 election ballot, a Missouri appeals court panel ruled this week.

Hours after hearing oral arguments in the case Tuesday afternoon, the three-judge panel of the appeals court's Western District, in Kansas City, ruled Cole County Presiding Circuit Judge Pat Joyce "did not err in granting the Intervenors' motion to dismiss Bradshaw's petition for failure to state a claim," upholding Joyce's ruling to dismiss Brad Bradshaw's lawsuit seeking to block the statewide vote in November.

Bradshaw originally sued Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, but Sheila Dundon, who proposed the Amendment 2 petition, and the group New Approach Missouri, which backs it, were added as intervenor defendants.

Bradshaw sponsored a different medical marijuana petition that Ashcroft also certified for the Nov. 6 ballot, as Amendment 3.

In early August, he filed two lawsuits seeking to block the proposed Amendment 1 and a separate proposal to allow medical marijuana under a changed state law.

After Joyce ruled against him on Aug. 31 on the challenge to Amendment 2, Bradshaw last week dismissed his challenge to the proposal changing state law.

So, as of now, all three proposals currently are scheduled to be on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Bradshaw's two lawsuits argued there were irregularities in the way the petitions were circulated, that should have caused Ashcroft to keep them off the ballot.

Both lawsuits asked the Cole County Circuit Court to order the secretary of state to change his ruling, declare the submitted petitions had not been "sufficient" under state law to be placed on the ballot, then remove the proposals from the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

Bradshaw argued — before Joyce last month and before the appeals court this week — that thousands of individuals signed the petition while not in the presence of the circulator, even though state law requires petition circulators to swear and affirm, under oath and in the presence of a notary, that each person signing an initiative petition did so in the circulator's presence.

Bradshaw also argued the circulators didn't sign their required affidavits in a notary's presence.

But, Judge Cynthia Martin wrote for the three-judge appeals court panel, state law doesn't authorize "the secretary of state to look behind a circulator's notarized affidavit to determine its veracity or proper execution."

Instead, the court found, state law requires the secretary to declare a petition is sufficient, if the completed petition's "form is followed substantially and the requirements of (two other sections of state law) are met."

Martin's 24-page opinion for the court includes an eight-page discussion of the secretary of state's duties, first when someone proposes to circulate an initiative petition, and then when that petition is returned with signatures of Missouri voters who want to see the issue placed on a statewide ballot.

Those duties include having local election authorities — county clerks in outstate Missouri — certify voters' signatures from their county match the voters' registration information in that county.

Signatures that don't match aren't counted.

The local election authority reports the final count of valid signatures back to the secretary of state.

If there are enough valid signatures equal to 8 percent of the total vote for governor in the most recent governor's election (2016, in this case) in each of at least six of Missouri's eight congressional districts, the proposed issue is certified for a statewide vote.

Lower courts are to follow the precedents set by the state Supreme Court and, Martin wrote: "Our Supreme Court has concluded that irregularities in self-reported voter information such as 'name, date, and address are not sufficient to disprove the validity of the voter's signature when the [local election authorities] have specifically reviewed the signatures and matched them with registered voters.'"

Martin's opinion for the court also noted: "The General Assembly has not expressed the intent to declare voter signatures invalid based on a dishonest circulator affidavit or notary attestation. We will not infer that intent."

In a footnote, the court added the General Assembly "has had no trouble expressly saying" it intended for votes not to be counted when there is a "failure to abide by a statutory requirement related to the initiative process."

The appeals court denied Bradshaw's motion for it to transfer the case to the state Supreme Court.

As of Thursday evening, a direct appeal had not been filed, yet.