reports the Kansas City Star in a story by Barb Shelly, “Defenders of high payday loan rates resort to intimidation.”

According to the story, “Someone broke into a car in Springfield last week and stole 5,500 signatures that volunteers had gathered for initiative petitions to cap payday loan rates and raise Missouri’s minimum wage.”

There have also been numerous allegations that opponents of the two ballot measures have been harassing signature gatherers. According to Shelly’s story, “Opposition blockers down there have been screaming in the faces of our canvassers and voters to intimidate people from signing,” said Molly Fleming-Pierre, an organizer with Communities Creating Opportunities in Kansas City.

As has been reported on earlier, volunteers, including clergy members and other religious groups, have been busy collecting signatures in an effort to qualify the measures.

It’s unclear who is behind the blocking efforts in Missouri.  The Star reports that, “A shadowy though well-funded group called Missourians for Equal Credit Opportunity is opposing the payday loan initiative, but there is no way to show at this point if that group paid someone to coordinate the strong-arm tactics used in Springfield.”Fortunately, there are statutes on the books in Missouri that law enforcement can use to crack down on this criminal behavior.

The deadline for depositing signed petitions to the Missouri Secretary of State is this Monday.

Proponents of the two Missouri initiatives are optimistic that they will qualify for the ballot.

If they do qualify for the November election, it bodes well for Democratic candidates on the ballot, as my research on the 2006 minimum wage initiatives documents.