A rally against proposed changes to the ballot initiative process in Missouri drew several dozen to the steps of the state Capitol on Wednesday morning.
The event was staged by Show Me Integrity — "a cross-partisan movement for more effective, ethical government of, by and for the people," according to its website — and some of its partner organizations. The Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, League of Women Voters, ACLU and others all had a hand in the effort.
The two main targets of the rally's frustrations are House Joint Resolution 20 and House Bill 333. If passed, that legislation would increase the number of signatures required to place a measure on the ballot and require a larger majority of voters to approve a measure, among other changes.
The House approved both bills in March, and they currently sit in the Senate with about two-and-a-half weeks left in the legislative session.
Initiative petitions are a means to hold lawmakers accountable to the will of the people, rallygoers said.
Wednesday's rally, and the legislative session's broader conversation around ballot initiatives, comes amid a debate in the Capitol regarding funding for Medicaid expansion. Last year, Missouri voters approved Medicaid expansion by a 6.6 percent margin in a direct vote, but House-passed budget bills don't include the necessary funds.
Last week, HJR 20 was sent to a second committee in the Senate, while HB 333 has been placed on the body's informal calendar.
"Whether you're here for health care or taxes or the fundamental freedom of every Missourian, we all know that the ballot initiative process is the way that we can keep that check on the Legislature to make sure they are doing the will of the people back home," Benjamin Singer, Show Me Integrity's executive director, told the crowd.
Rallygoers brought signs to the event and divided into small groups to enter the Capitol and visit legislators' offices following speeches.
"There is a saying that goes, 'The most important office in a democracy is not president, not prime minister or governor or mayor. It is the citizen,"' Angie Dunlap, president of the St. Louis League of Women voters, said. "(The proposed bills) are all efforts that are contrary to the idea that voters have the most important role in our democracy."
In March, a poll conducted by Ragnar Research found 56 percent of likely voters in Missouri opposed an increase in the number of signatures to place a measure on the ballot.
Missouri Secretary of State John Ashcroft has filed written testimony in support of HB 333. Lawmakers supporting the legislation argue that passing ballot measures is too easy.