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Ashcroft certifies ballot language after judge throws out lawsuit on abortion petition


Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft certified the official ballot language after a second lawsuit regarding the initiative petition on abortion access was thrown out by a Cole County Judge on Wednesday.

The action in court Wednesday does not end the legal battle over the initiative petition.

Last week, the Missouri Supreme Court backed a lower court's decision to force the attorney general to file the fiscal note to allow the certification of the initiative petition. Following oral arguments Tuesday, Missouri ACLU lawyers said they were planning to file a lawsuit against Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft for the proposed ballot language on the petition.

"Despite the Secretary of State’s request to toss our challenges to his deceptive ballot summary statement, the court kept our case on track. We will amend our filings tomorrow and see the Secretary in court next week," Tom Bastian, ACLU of Missouri deputy director of communications, said in an email.

Ashcroft told ABC 17 News that he plans to certify the ballot title by 5 p.m. Wednesday, it was done and publicly posted around 4 p.m.

"We applaud the court for dismissing these frivolous lawsuits that were filed prior to the initiative petition language being certified by my office,” Ashcroft said in an email.

The ballot language being challenged in court. Courtesy: Secretary of State's website

The initiative petition aims to codify abortion rights in the Missouri Constitution. There are 11 total rights it outlines, including access to abortion, birth control and miscarriage management. The petition also outlines parameters for each of those rights. Several versions of the petition are filed and available for viewing on the Secretary of State's website.

Missouri ACLU followed through with its promise. Bastian told ABC 17 News in an email the Secretary of State is filing motions to dismiss the lawsuit that the ACLU feels are purposefully deceptive and fail to address the purpose of the initiative petition.

"His failure to certify the ballot titles upon receipt of the fiscal note, like the Attorney General's illegal delay in approving the fiscal note, is a part of these politicians' efforts to deny Missourians their constitutional right to direct democracy through the initiative process," Bastian said. "They removed Missourians' reproductive rights without a vote and they will do anything to deny Missourians' the opportunity to vote on the issue."

In June, Ashcroft told ABC 17 News he does not support the petition.

“As an elected official and secretary of state, I've got to follow the law and there are initiative petitions filed that I agree with and initiative petitions filed that I disagree with," Ashcroft said. "But the law is clear about what my duties are.”

In order to be put on the ballot, the petition needs signatures from 5% of legal voters in six-of-eight voting districts. More information about the initiative petition process can be found online.

Republicans made initiative petition reform a priority for the past few legislative sessions, but never got a bill across the finish line. Currently, it takes a simple majority of voters for an initiative petition to pass. Republican bills would have changed that to 57% or more.

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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