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Medicaid expansion in Missouri certified for November ballot, but August vote could be in store

Medicaid expansion in Missouri certified for November ballot, but August vote could be in store

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JEFFERSON CITY — Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said Friday that proponents of a ballot question to expand Medicaid eligibility in Missouri had turned in enough signatures to make the November ballot.

Ashcroft’s approval gives Gov. Mike Parson enough time to move the date of the election to August if he so chooses. The deadline for switching the election is Tuesday.

Moving the question to the lower-turnout August primaries would mean Republicans running in November for statewide office, as well as for legislative seats, wouldn’t have to appear on the same ballot as Medicaid expansion, which the party has rejected for years.

Ashcroft, a Republican like Parson, began the ballot certification process after proponents said they turned in nearly 350,000 petition signatures at the beginning of May.

Instead of sending the signatures to local election authorities for verification, Ashcroft used a lesser-known random sampling process that under state law requires examination of 5% of the signatures. Ashcroft said he chose the random-sampling route so local election authorities wouldn’t be overwhelmed ahead of June 2 municipal elections, which Parson moved from April amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“It would have created a tremendous amount of work for them at the same time they prepare for, conduct and certify their local election,” Ashcroft said in a statement.

Chuck Hatfield, a Jefferson City attorney, said in a letter Friday to the secretary of state’s office that Ashcroft needed to go through a rule-making process before moving forward with random ballot sampling. Because Ashcroft didn’t do that, Hatfield said, “you have no authority to deviate from the normal practice and conduct a random sampling process in order to put Medicaid expansion on the August ballot.”

Kelli Jones, spokeswoman for Parson, said prior to Ashcroft’s Friday news release that the governor likely would release more information about his intentions early next week.

A.J. Bockelman, campaign manager for Healthcare for Missouri, cheered the ballot certification.

“It’s more critical than ever that we bring $1 billion of our own tax dollars back from Washington D.C. so that we can keep rural hospitals open, protect thousands of health care jobs, and help essential workers access the care they deserve,” he said in a statement. “Today’s certification is a tremendous first step forward in improving access to healthcare for Missourians.”

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