Rules for Missouri Fire Protection Districts - Page 5

IV. Initiative, Referendum and Recall

Parenthetical numbers in the text refer to sections of the current Revised Statutes of Missouri, abbreviated as RSMo.

Initiative and referendum

Voters of an FPD may act on behalf of the board or reverse any action taken by the board, though they rarely do. The procedures are complicated and require a petition that meets stringent criteria followed by a simple majority vote at the polls. FPD officials need to be aware of the statutes that give voters this power (321.490-321.500).

Petitions

A form for initiative or referendum petitions is provided in the statutes (321.495). It begins with a warning that it is a felony to sign someone else’s name, sign more than once or sign without being a registered voter. Then, addressing the board, it says that the persons undersigned order the described measure be referred to the people of the FPD for approval or rejection and gives the date for the election. The measure that petitioners want adopted, or the board-passed measure they want repealed, must be attached. Each person signs on a numbered line and gives his or her voting address. Each sheet of signatures must have a sworn oath by the signature gatherer at the bottom, verifying that the persons listed signed the petition in the gatherer’s presence and that the gatherer believes they are all registered voters who reside in the FPD. The form must be signed by the petition circulator, and that signature notarized.

If verified signatures equal the number of votes cast in the last FPD election, the issue goes before the voters when specified. A simple majority adopts the proposed measure in an initiative petition or repeals a measure the board had adopted in a referendum petition.

The petition process should be taken seriously. In one known instance, the description of what petitioners proposed was faulty, even though they had paid for legal advice to help prepare the petition, and so the issue never came to the ballot. However, when the signatures were being verified, at least eight names were found that did not match those of FPD residents or registered voters. The felony warning noted above is a felony election offense. Conviction of such a violation permanently severs a citizen’s voting rights. Had the issue on the petition gone to the ballot, eight persons could have permanently lost their right to vote.

Recall and exemptions

Any or all members of an FPD board are subject to recall and removal from office by FPD voters. However, several restrictions apply, including those listed below under Who may not be recalled. Although recall is rare, it has been used successfully, so a board should be familiar with the rules that govern it (321.701-321.716).

Who may not be recalled

Board members are exempt from recall during the first 180 days and the final 180 days of their terms. If a member has been the subject of a recall election during the term and survived, that member is exempt for the rest of that term. This means all board members are subject to being recalled by FPD voters if they are not in the first half of their first year or the last half of their final year, or unless they have survived a recall vote that term.

Notice of intent

A notice of the intention to circulate a recall petition must be either handed personally to, or sent by certified mail to, the board member who is the subject of the recall. A copy is filed with the election authority along with a sworn statement that the notice was served on the board member. Each member whose removal is sought must receive a separate notice.

The notice must contain the board member’s name, a statement of the reasons for the proposed recall no longer than 200 words, and names and addresses of one to five recall proponents. The board member has seven days to file a response with the election authority, and, if a response is filed, the board member must send a copy to at least one proponent by certified mail or personal service.

Recall petitions include a request for election, a copy of the notice of intention’s complaint, the member’s response or a note that no response was made, and lines for each signer’s signature, printed name and address. Each petition requires a sworn certification from the signature gatherer and must be completed and turned in within 180 days from the date of filing the notice of intent.

The signatures must equal 25 percent of the people who voted for governor within the FPD in the last general election. The election authority has 20 days to verify signatures. If signatures fall short of the required total, petitioners have 10 days to collect more. If numbers are still insufficient, no action is taken and the petition stays on file with the election authority.

If enough signatures are gathered, a certificate is sent to the FPD board before its next meeting with the board member’s name, the number of signatures required, the total number of signatures on the petition and the number that were valid. Upon proof that the board has received the certificate, the election authority schedules the election for a regular election day (115.123). Up to 42 days before the election, the member can resign and have the question removed from the ballot. The resigned member may not be appointed to the vacancy.

Once the recall election has been scheduled, candidate(s) to replace the board member, if he or she is recalled, nominate themselves by filing a statement of candidacy with the election authority. Any new member of the board shall qualify in the same manner as the members of the first board qualify (321.210). For more information on these qualifications, see Chapter III. Officials and Board Operations.

Costs of the recall election are billed to the FPD. The election must be held no less than 45 days and no more than 120 days after the FPD board receives the recall petition. Because the law (115.123) restricts the days on which elections may be held, determine possible dates for the election as soon as a notice of intent has been filed. A simple majority decides the recall question. One more than half of the total votes cast ousts the member. One vote short of half the total, and the board member stays.

Change in number of board members

Except in St. Louis County, the law (321.120.5) allows for the FPD board of directors to make a motion to increase the number of FPD directors to five; however, the voters must approve the increase. In St. Louis County, the number of FPD directors can only be increased through consolidation (see Consolidation and shared services section under Chapter VII. Changing FPD Boundaries for more information about FPD consolidations).

If the voters approve the increase of the FPD board to five directors, then at the next election of board members, the voters select two additional FPD directors. The FPD director candidate that receives the highest number of votes will hold office for six years and the candidate that receives the second highest number of votes will hold office for four years.

The terms of the FPD directors in office when the board is expanded are not affected (321.120.6).