JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — The Missouri Supreme Court is set to hear arguments Wednesday about whether Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, a Republican, used an unconstitutional set of laws last year to derail an effort to put the state’s new abortion restrictions on a ballot for a public vote.
The court’s decision could result in a change to the rules governing how citizens can alter the state Constitution, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
The case stems from a ruling in December by Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem, who found that Ashcroft should have given the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri and other groups more time to circulate their proposed ballot initiative.
Missouri allows residents to collect signatures, prior to a law taking effect, to trigger a public vote. Ashcroft didn’t approve the referendum effort until mid-August, giving supporters two weeks to collect 100,000 signatures.
Beetem said the law granting Ashcroft the power to “derail” signature gathering was in conflict with the constitution, which gives citizens the opportunity to overturn laws.
The attorney general’s office, which is representing Ashcroft, will argue that the current deadlines are a needed guardrail for the initiative petition process.
The case also spotlights a voting issue that has rankled Republicans in recent years. The House and Senate have debated several proposals that would make it harder for citizens to change the Constitution.