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County Referendum 3: More public input on petitions

The third county referendum proposes a chance for more public input on petitions and also requires the county commission to approve a petition before it goes out to the public. This extra step gives groups a chance to perfect their petition before it goes out to residents and allows them to receive opinions from county lawyers.

Here’s the official wording. And just FYI legal sufficiency basically means that a petition has checked off enough boxes to go out to the public. An initiatory petition indicates that it’s the first step in the process for getting a proposed law onto a ballot:

Shall the charter be amended to require that the board of county commissioners shall determine the legal sufficiency of an initiatory petition at the next board meeting after the clerk of courts approves the petition form rather than after the required signatures have been gathered?

This referendum was motivated primarily by a 2016 petition effort that failed because organizers didn’t have a chance to make sure their petition was legal and good to go out to residents. The campaign was an effort to get a referendum on the ballot that would create a new campaign-finance reform law.

In that case, the petition didn’t meet the county’s legal requirements, but organizers behind the petition didn’t find that out until after they had gotten the necessary signatures, when it was too late to fix the petition’s language.

If you vote yes, you’re voting for the county commission to vote on whether a petition is legal before it goes out for signatures, lessening the chances of a petition being thrown out over legal issues.

If you vote no, the process will remain the same. Commissioners won’t be required to vote on the legality of an item after the clerk of courts approves a petition. The commission will only vote after the petition’s received enough signatures.