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Anti-drug advocate argues secretary of state’s office incorrectly verified signatures for Legal Missouri 2022


A lawsuit wants to stop voters from deciding on the legalization of marijuana this November. The lawsuit challenges the secretary of state approving the petition that got the issue on the ballot.

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft's office certified Legal Missouri 2022's more than 214,000 signatures last month, but now an anti-drug advocate is arguing Ashcroft's office did not follow the rules when certifying them.

Joy Sweeney, represented in court Thursday by Joshua Christensen and Taylor White, filed a lawsuit against the secretary of state to block the recreational marijuana question from getting on the November ballot.

Sweeney is a deputy director for the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America and former Jefferson City Board of Education member.

Missouri's director of elections noticed some errors in how state officials verified signatures. However, while reviewing their work, the state found that some signatures originally counted as invalid were actually valid. Sweeney's team argues Ashcroft's office does not have the authority to do that.

"The ultimate question is: what authority does the secretary of state have to change the results of that once that's done?" Christensen said. "Whatever flexibility the statute may allow for, taking signatures not verified by local election authorities and verifying them independently is is directly contrary to 116.040."

The lawsuit also claims the question violates the constitution's requirement that amendments not contain more than one subject. It alleges the legalization and expungement provisions count as separate subjects.

Marc Ellinger, who represented Legal Missouri 2022 on Thursday, cited other cases, saying it doesn't matter if Ashcroft's office had the authority.

"Regardless of whether the secretary of state could or couldn't go back and recount -- and for the record judge, the secretary of state most certainly can because the secretary of state has to get it right -- but regardless of that, if the signatures are present the petition is sufficient, and the people have the right to put it on the ballot," Ellinger said.

The judge will release a ruling after reviewing evidence and depositions.

JoDonn Chaney with the Secretary of State's Office said Ashcroft will not comment on pending litigation but stands by the certification.

"Regarding the initiative petition, the numbers and the process speak for themselves," Chaney said. "Secretary Ashcroft stands by his decision to certify this ballot initiative which is being defended at trial today."

Article Topic Follows: Missouri Politics

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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.


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