Crystal Quade challenger withdrawn from ballot due to lack of signatures
A Springfield independent candidate hoping to be on the Missouri House of Representatives ballot in November was removed from office on Monday, following a lawsuit filed by the district’s current representative.
Missouri House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, who represents Missouri’s 132nd District, filed a lawsuit against Larry Flenoid II, a local business owner and former candidate for city council, in late August. Quade alleged that Flenoid, who was running against her, failed to properly collect the correct number of signatures on her petition to qualify for a spot on the ballot.
Judge Michael Cordonnier presided over a bench trial in the case that began Monday morning and ended before lunch. He called the trial “very important”, after the lawyers’ closing remarks.
During the majority of the trial, Quade’s attorney, Matthew Vianello, addressed invalid signatures on the petition that Flenoid submitted to Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office on July 29. His petition included 288 signatures.
Ashcroft determined that 221 of those signatures were valid and certified him on August 23 to run in the November election. Independent candidates for the Missouri House must acquire signatures equal to 2% of the votes cast in the district’s previous general election. In this case, Flenoid needed 213 signatures.
Vianello said during Monday’s trial that 89 of the original 288 signatures on Flenoid’s petition were invalid. These invalid signatures were either because those who signed the petition did not live in the 132nd District, were not registered to vote at the address they provided, had not completed all of the qualifying information, or had signed the petition twice.
Although Vianello did not review each invalid signature individually, he addressed over 50. He used a interactive map Congressional and General Assembly Districts in Missouri to cross-reference invalid addresses with their location in the state. Most invalid signatures from districts outside of the 132nd were from neighboring districts.
Vianello claimed that the 89 invalid signatures left Flenoid with just 199, 14 signatures short of the required amount.
Vianello called Chelsea Pointer, the Greene County Clerk’s Office voter registration coordinator to the stand. Pointer corroborated Vianello’s statement and explained why 89 of the signatures were invalid.
Following Pointer’s testimony, Quade was asked to testify by Flenoid’s attorney, Kyle Wyatt. During his first round of interrogation, Wyatt asked Quade if she checked the validity of the signatures of all of her political opponents.
Quade said this case is a first, as it is the first time an independent has come forward against her.
Judge Cordonnier ruled that due to invalid signatures on Flenoid’s petition, he did not meet the threshold needed to be on the ballot in November.
Quade has served in the Missouri House since 2016 and currently leads the Democrats.
In 2019, Flenoid ran into a similar problem while trying to run for Springfield City Council. His petition was not certified by the city, which determined that some of his signatures came from residents who lived outside the city limits.
Stephanos Freeman, a Republican, will run against Quade in November.