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Pocatello’s petition process

Are you confused by the petition for Pocatello’s nondiscrimination ordinance? What does the petition do? What does the referendum do?

Reporter Chris Cole spoke with some folks in Pocatello who said they were told they should sign whether they support the ordinance or not. However, the petition is the first step in the process of repealing it.

The number of signatures needed for the petition depends on the number of people who voted in the last general election. According to Ruth Whitworth, Pocatello City Clerk, here were 7,096 voters that turned out in the general election of 2011, and 20 percent of that is 1,420 – the number of people’s signatures required on the petition to get the referendum on the ballot in this November’s elections.

Here’s how the process works: First you need to get all the signatures, usually gathered by knocking on doors. Once you get all those signatures, the petition lands on Whitworth’s desk.

Whitworth looks over the petition for anything out of the ordinary. She says there are certain requirements to meet – it’s not simply signing your name and the petitioner bringing it in to her.

“They verify that, ‘yes I saw this person sign,’ and that has to be notarized,” Whitworth said. “They bring all of that in and I’ll review it and see if there’s any duplicates, or it looks like something’s been erased or anything that looks like it’s not quite right.”

From Whitworth, the petition goes to the Bannock County Election Offices, where they make sure the signatures are valid, meaning those who signed are registered voters.

From the county, it goes back to the city, where they need to develop the language to put the referendum on the ballot.

“A referendum is a repeal of the ordinance the City Council has passed.,” Whitworth explained. “I’ve explained that to a few people that have called me, and said I would do the same for you if you are in support or if you are against. The same wording is going to be on the ballot.”

From there, voters will vote yes or no, and if the majority of votes don’t support the ordinance, it’s repealed.

The period of time to get these signatures is very short. This whole process needs to be completed by Sept. 13. Whitworth also said it’s important to remember the Bannock County Election Office serves all of the cities and towns in the county.

That means even if the petition is completed in time, their workload could make it impossible to get the referendum on the ballot. If the petition isn’t complete in time for November’s voting, the referendum will likely be put on the ballot in May.

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