I am the Rev. Dr. Teresa Danieley, a lifelong Missourian. I have participated in grassroots initiative petition campaigns many times as both a volunteer from 2005 to 2012 and as a staff person at Missouri Jobs with Justice since 2017.
I first participated in gathering signatures to raise the minimum wage in 2005-2006 because, as a parish priest in the City of St. Louis, I encountered many parishioners and members of the wider community who were working for minimum wage, but struggling to make ends meet. Raising the minimum wage seemed like a common sense way to alleviate suffering and the need for working people to seek charity. In November 2006, that first increase in the minimum wage won easily statewide, across geographic and political boundaries. The initiative petition process is non-partisan and used by people across the political and philosophical spectrum.
Since that first experience with the Missouri initiative petition process, I have participated again many times, as both a volunteer and a staff person. I have spent all day outside polling places and along parade routes in blazing heat and freezing cold. I have collected signatures in churches, synagogues, mosques, and union halls. Even in the nicest weather with the friendliest crowd, the signature gathering is slow, tedious work, filling pages ten signatures at a time.
In the past year, I have also been notarizing initiative petitions and found that it is more complex to notarize an initiative petition than it is to notarize someone’s advance health directive. One small mistake on my part could disqualify the signatures of ten Missouri voters and the hard work of a signature gathering volunteer.
As a Missourian, I am proud that we have had the grassroots ballot initiative petition process available to us since 1907 as an important tool of direct democracy. The initiative petition process allows us to maintain our freedom to have a say on important issues. Qualifying a grassroots ballot initiative is already incredibly difficult. Making it even more difficult does nothing other than undermine democracy.
As a Missouri voter, I have had the right to directly petition my neighbors if I thought our government wasn’t prioritizing the right things. This right was passed down to me from previous generations of Missourians. It is part of our toolkit of democracy. If this legislation is to pass, future generations will not have the same rights that I do. We should not seek to permanently alter our constitution and deprive future citizens of the rights we all currently enjoy.
A majority is 50% plus 1. Changing the threshold is undemocratic and would make it harder for the public to make decisions. As I have described from my own experience, the initiative petition process is already rigorous and incredibly difficult – hundreds of thousands of voters must sign on before a measure even gets considered for the ballot. Adding additional barriers does nothing more than censure the voice of the people.
I respectfully request that you vote no.