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Missouri ballot initiative to cap interest rates falls short

More than three months after submitting more than 175,000 signatures, it appears that supporters of a ballot initiative in Missouri that would cap interest rates on payday and other small-dollar loans may have fallen just short of getting their question on the ballot.

Earlier this month, the Missouri Secretary of State announced that the initiative was just 270 valid signatures short of the more than 90,000 needed to put the question on the ballot this fall.

To qualify for the ballot in Missouri, petitioners need to submit signatures of registered voters, equal to 5% of the state turnout in the last election, in six of the state’s nine Congressional districts.

Supporters of the measure are hoping that the close signature tally and ballot rejection may only be a clerical error.

Missourians for Responsible Lending, a coalition of activists who proposed and worked to collect the necessary signatures for the ballot initiative wrote in a statement that, “[w]e are confident that more than enough valid signatures exist among” those that were submitted in the one district where they fell short.

The group also pointed out that at least four other initiative petitions over the past decade were initially rejected before a being ordered onto the ballot by judges after a more thorough review of the signatures.

Supporters of the measure were in court on August 20, asking a Missouri Judge to take another look at the submitted signatures.

The signature count setback comes just weeks after the Missouri Supreme Court settled the ballot question language, which had been in litigation for nearly a year. The Court ruled that the summary statement – which is drafted by the Secretary of State and would be printed on the ballot – was, in fact, “fair and sufficient,” overruling a lower court that had struck down the initiative.

Watch Loans on the line on PBS. See more from Need To Know.

In May, Need to Know reported on this potential ballot initiative and the push to collect the nearly 100,000 signatures needed to get it on the ballot.