JEFFERSON CITY _ Paid petition circulators would have to register with election officials under a proposal approved by the Missouri House Wednesday (March 29).
"We are trying to restore integrity to the petition process," said the bill's sponsor, Annette Morgan, D-Kansas City. She was echoed by other supporters of the bill during the floor debate.
``We want to return the initiative petition process to a truly populist position,'' Morgan said. ``But if we have to accept that collectors can be paid, then at least we should make fraud less of a temptation.''
In addition to registration, the bill would restrict the basis of payment that can be made to petition circulators. It would prohibit paying a circulator on a per-signature basis.
Originally, Morgan had wanted all petition collectors to register with local election officials. But after objections from citizen activist groups, Morgan changed her bill so that only professional circulators would have to fill out a form at the election board.
The bill is designed to curb election fraud which has become a problem according to Boone County Clerk, Wendy Noren. Earlier this session, Noren told the House Elections Committee that every case petition fraud she had encountered involved per-signature payment.
But one problem with the bill could be enforcement. Rep. David Levin, R-St. Louis, wondered how many cases of petition fraud there have been. The answer is none on the state level in the last year, said Margaret Freeman of the state's Election Services. But it is up to the counties to find such fraud.
The proposal faces one more House vote before going to the Senate.