Today, the Missouri Supreme Court let stand the Court of Appeals holding that Secretary of State Ashcroft acted outside his legal authority by rejecting the referendum petition on Missouri’s abortion ban. This recognition that Ashcroft acted illegally should prevent him from ever again abusing his office to derail the people’s right to challenge legislation by referendum.
Unfortunately, Ashcroft is continuing to obstruct the people’s vote by dragging his feet in his quest to deny the people a say on Missouri’s extreme 8-week abortion ban. If he acted promptly, supporters could begin to gather signatures by July 18 at the latest. But Ashcroft seems intent to slow the process so that supporters will not have enough time to collect enough signatures.
“It is no secret that Ashcroft’s agenda is banning abortion in Missouri,” says Anthony Rothert, interim Executive Director at the ACLU of Missouri. “While it is fantastic that the courts have made clear that he acted illegally, he may well succeed in preventing voters from getting their say on this important issue. Ashcroft’s tenure as Missouri’s chief election officer continues to be marked by efforts to prevent Missourians from voting.”
If Ashcroft had not illegally rejected the referendum petition, then he would have had to certify the petition for signature gathering by July 18. He will not meet that deadline, which in turn denies a meaningful opportunity to collect signatures, which must be submitted by August 28.
We reject the idea that Missourians can be denied the right to a referendum because of the unlawful action of an elected official determined to take away constitutional rights. The people kept for themselves the right of referendum to safeguard Missourians from an overzealous, out-of-touch government. No matter how they would vote on the referendum, every Missourian is harmed by Ashcroft’s abuse of this office to serve his radical anti-abortion agenda.
Our fight is not over. We continue to push Ashcroft to his job by certifying ballot language by July 18. Should he fail to do so, we will not let Missourians forget that he has taken the fate of the abortion ban away from the voters of Missouri.