Backers fight to get medical marijuana on Missouri ballot

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — An attorney for supporters of a proposal to allow medical marijuana in Missouri told a judge Monday that enough registered voters signed petitions for it to be placed on the Nov. 8 ballot and that local elections boards wrongly tossed out thousands of signatures.

Attorney Loretta Haggard told Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green that hundreds of signers were improperly labeled as unregistered because they put down the wrong address. She asked that officials count about 170 petitions where signatures were found not to match voter records.

Attorneys for the secretary of state’s office and others trying to keep the measure off the ballot questioned whether those petitions should be counted. Even with those signatures, attorneys said the proposal falls 23 signatures short of the amount needed to make the ballot.

Secretary of State Jason Kander has said the measure was 2,242 short of the needed signatures in a district that includes part of the St. Louis area, and attorneys trying to get it on the ballot turned in evidence for only 2,219 more to be counted by a court deadline last week.

“By my count, judge, they are short,” said Marc Ellinger, an attorney for some prosecutors trying to keep the measure off the ballot.

The group New Approach Missouri and other supporters are asking Green to accept an additional 144 additional petitions signed by voters who they claim are registered in the correct district but who signed a petition for the wrong county. New Approach Missouri found those cases after the Thursday court deadline, and Assistant Attorney General John Hirth, who represents Kander’s office, said they shouldn’t be considered.

Haggard and other attorneys pushing to get the proposal on the ballot said the state law that disqualifies the signatures because of the county mix-ups is unconstitutional.

“Jurisdiction lines often divide up these voters,” attorney Brad Ketcher, who is the treasurer for New Approach Missouri’s campaign, told The Associated Press after court. “But the bottom line is these are registered voters. We shouldn’t leave them behind.”

New Approach Missouri campaign manager John Payne testified that those petitions include some signed by St. Louis-area voters who were confused about where they’re registered to vote.

Payne also told Hirth during questioning in court that at least some of those signed petitions ultimately won’t count because they’re duplicate petitions signed by the same voter.

The proposal at issue would allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes and impose a 4 percent sales tax on medical marijuana sales. The state would set up a licensing program with fees.

The court case will continue Tuesday. Green didn’t indicate when he might rule. Absentee voting begins Sept. 27.

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