Petition Process

The Charter of the City of St. Louis authorizes three kinds of citizen petitions:

  1. A recall petition, to recall an elected official (Article III).
  2. An initiative petition, to propose an ordinance or an amendment to the City Charter (Article V).
  3. A referendum petition, to request reconsideration of an ordinance (Article VI).

Recall Petitions

  1. Article III of the City Charter provides a procedure by which an elected official may be recalled by the registered voters of the city or, in the case of an alderman/woman, the registered voters of the ward he/she represents. That procedure consists of gathering the signatures of registered voters on a petition requesting the recall of such elected official and submitting it to the Election Board for signature verification.
  2. To recall a citywide elected official, a recall petition must contain the signatures of registered voters equal in number to at least 20% of the registered voters in the City of St. Louis at the time of the last preceding regular mayoral election. In addition, the petition must contain the signatures of at least 20% of the registered voters in each of at least two-thirds of the wards in the city. To recall an alderman/woman, a petition must contain the signatures of at least 20% of the registered voters in that alderman/woman’s ward at the time of the last preceding regular mayoral election.

    The last regular mayoral election was held on April 7, 2009. At that time, there were 222,037 registered voters in the City of St. Louis. 20% of 222,037 is 44,407 signatures.

  3. Although the City Charter does not specify the form of petition that must be used to recall an elected official, it does state that all pages comprising the petition must (a) be uniform in character; (b) state the name and office of the official whose recall is sought and request his/her recall; (c) contain the voter’s signature and residence address; (d) contain a notarized affidavit of the signature gatherer stating that each signature was made in his/her presence by the person whose signature it purports to be; and (e) be filed with the Election Board as one instrument.

    Since the Election Board does not approve the form of a recall petition in advance, proponents of a proposed recall are encouraged to obtain the advice of legal counsel before they begin to collect signatures. In addition, since signatures are sometimes hard to read, the petition should also contain columns for the signer to print his/her name, next to his/her signature, and the date each voter signed his/her name. Interested individuals may also want to review the requirements for statewide petitions contained in RSMO Chapter 116 for comparable petition forms.

  4. Once a recall petition is submitted to the Election Board for signature verification, it is considered public information, which means that any interested individual (including the target of the recall) may purchase a copy thereof. Within ten days thereafter, the Board will certify as to the number of valid signatures of registered voters contained on the petition and whether that number is sufficient to recall the official involved. If it does not, then the proponents of the recall will have an additional twenty days to submit to the Board supplemental signature pages that conform to the requirements of the original pages filed with the Board. If supplemental pages are filed, the Board then has another ten days to verify those signatures

    NOTE: At any time prior to certification, a voter who signed the recall petition (either the original petition or any supplemental pages) may withdraw his/her signature by filing an Affidavit with the Board requesting that his/her signature be withdrawn.

  5. If a recall petition (including any supplemental pages) is found to contain a sufficient number of signatures of registered voters, the Election Board will notify the official involved that he/she has ten days to resign his/her position. If the official does not resign, then the Board will submit the question of his/her recall to the appropriate voters at the first election at which it may lawfully be submitted.
  6. If a recall election is required, the question to be presented to the eligible voters will appear on the ballot as follows:

    “Shall [name of official] be removed from the office of [name of office]?”

    If the majority of the votes cast are in favor of the recall, the office will automatically become vacant five days thereafter and a special election may be required to fill the vacancy. If the majority of the votes cast are opposed to the recall, then the official will remain in office.

  7. Restrictions on recall petitions:
    • A recall petition may only seek the recall of one elected official.
    • A recall petition may not be filed against an elected official during the first or last six months of his/her term of office, or within six months after a proposition calling for his/her recall has been defeated at an election.

Initiative Petitions

  1. Article V of the City Charter provides a procedure by which registered voters may propose an ordinance or an amendment to the City Charter and have it adopted by the voters, with the same effect as if it had been enacted by the Board of Aldermen and approved by the Mayor. This procedure consists of gathering the signatures of registered voters on an initiative petition.
  2. To propose the adoption of an ordinance, an initiative petition must contain the signatures of registered voters equal in number to at least 5% of the registered voters in the City of St. Louis at the time of the last preceding regular mayoral election. To propose the adoption of a City Charter amendment, the signature requirement is at least 10% of the registered voters in the City of St. Louis as of the last mayoral election.

    The last regular mayoral election was held on April 7, 2009. At that time, there were 222,037 registered voters in the City of St. Louis. 5% of 222,037 is 11,102; 10% of 222,037 is 22,204.

  3. As with the recall petition process, the City Charter does not specify the form for an initiative petition. It does, however, like the recall petition, require that all pages of the petition (a) be uniform in character; (b) contain the voter’s signature and residence address; (c) contain a notarized affidavit of the signature gatherer stating that each signature was made in his/her presence by the person whose signature it purports to be; and (d) be filed with the Election Board as one instrument. In addition, each page must contain the language of the proposed ordinance or charter amendment, in full, and the names and addresses of five persons who are designated as the “Committee of the Petitioners.”

    The Election Board does not approve the form of an initiative petition in advance. Accordingly, proponents of an initiative petition are encouraged to obtain the advice of legal counsel before they begin to collect signatures. In addition, since signatures are sometimes hard to read, the petition should also contain columns for the signer to print his/her name, next to his/her signature, and the date each voter signed his/her name. Interested individuals may also want to review the requirements for statewide initiative petitions contained in RSMO Chapter 116 for comparable petition form.

  4. Once an initiative petition is submitted to the Election Board for signature verification, the Board will follow the same procedure as it does for recall petitions (see paragraph 4 above under “Recall Petitions”).
  5. If the initiative petition (including any supplemental pages) is found to contain sufficient signatures of registered voters, the Election Board will notify the Board of Aldermen of that fact. Unless the proposed ordinance is adopted by the Board of Aldermen and approved by the Mayor, without amendment (or adopted, without amendment, over the Mayor’s veto), within sixty days after notification by the Election Board, the Election Board will submit the proposed ordinance to the voters at the first election at which such submission may legally be made.
  6. If the majority of the votes cast with respect to the proposed ordinance are in favor of it, it will become effective ten days thereafter.
  7. After an ordinance is adopted through the initiative petition process, it may not thereafter be amended or repealed by the Board of Aldermen for at least a year, and then only by a vote of at least 2/3 of all its members.

Referendum Petitions

  1. Article VI of the City Charter provides a procedure by which registered voters may have an ordinance adopted by the Board of Aldermen reconsidered and rejected. This procedure consists of gathering signatures of registered voters on a referendum petition.To prevent an ordinance (not an emergency measure) enacted by the Board of Aldermen and approved by the Mayor (or adopted over his/her veto) from going into effect, a referendum petition containing the signatures of registered voters equal in number to at least 2% of all registered voters in the City of St. Louis as of the date of the last preceding regular mayoral election must be filed with the Election Board within thirty days after such approval/adoption.
  2. The last regular mayoral election was held on April 7, 2009. At that time, there were 222,037 registered voters in the City of St. Louis. 2% of 222,037 is 4,441.
  3. As with the other petition procedures discussed above, the City Charter does not specify the form for a referendum petition. It does, however, like the recall and initiative petitions, require that all pages of the petition (a) be uniform in character; (b) contain the voter’s signature and residence address; (c) contain a notarized affidavit of the signature gatherer stating that each signature was made in his/her presence by the person whose signature it purports to be; and (d) be filed with the Election Board as one instrument. In addition, each page must contain the language of the proposed ordinance, in full, a request that the ordinance be reconsidered and rejected or referred by the Board of Aldermen, and the names and addresses of five persons who are designated as the “Committee of the Petitioners.”

    The Election Board does not approve the form of a referendum petition in advance. Accordingly, proponents of a referendum petition are encouraged to obtain the advice of legal counsel before they begin to collect signatures. In addition, since signatures are sometimes hard to read, the petition should also contain columns for the signer to print his/her name, next to his/her signature, and the date each voter signed his/her name. Interested individuals may also want to review the requirements for statewide referendum petitions contained in RSMO Chapter 116 for comparable petition forms.

  4. As with other petitions submitted to it, the Election Board has ten days after receipt of a referendum petition to certify the number of valid signatures of registered voters thereon.
    • If the number of valid signatures is less than the 2% discussed above, the petition may not be supplemented and the ordinance will take effect.
    • If the number of valid signatures is at least 2% but less than 7% (15,543), then the Petitioners will have an additional thirty days after certification to file with the Board supplemental signature pages, which will be certified by the Board within ten days of filing.
  5. If the referendum petition (including any supplemental pages) fails to contain valid signatures of registered voters equal in number to at least 7% of all registered voters in the City of St. Louis as of the last regular mayoral election (15,543), no further supplementing will be permitted and the ordinance will take effect. If the petition does contain the requisite number of valid signatures, the Election Board will notify the Board of Aldermen of that fact. Unless the Board of Aldermen rejects such ordinance within thirty days after notification by the Election Board, the Election Board will submit the proposed ordinance to the voters at the first election at which such submission may legally be made.
  6. If such an election is held and the majority of the votes cast with respect to the proposed ordinance are in favor of it, it will take effect ten days thereafter.

Statewide Petitions

Statewide initiative and referendum petitions are filed with the Office of the Secretary of State and are subject to the requirements of Chapter 116 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri and applicable regulations promulgated by the Secretary of State. For more detailed information, contact the Secretary of State’s office at 573-751-2301 or visit their website.