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Income tax petition does not appear to include required number of legal signatures
The recent petition regarding a local income tax to increase education funding does not appear to include the number of legally sufficient signatures required to trigger a public vote, according to the City of Oklahoma City Clerk’s preliminary determination.
The petition was filed Nov. 9 with City Clerk Frances Kersey. Kersey, Municipal Counselor Kenneth Jordan and their staff reviewed the signatures, and Kersey reached her preliminary determination Monday.
City staff is working to double-check the petition signature pages for accuracy, and to create a spreadsheet to log the determination for each signature page. For signatures not deemed legally sufficient, the log and notations on the signature pages will list the specific reason or reasons why.
Following this final review, the City Clerk will issue her final determination Thursday. At that time, the signature pages and log will be available for public review and inspection.
The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, Jonathan Small, Trent England and Dave Bond on Monday filed a protest of the petition. The City Clerk will consider the protest in a hearing, which has yet to be scheduled. The protest is not related to the Clerk’s preliminary determination regarding the legal sufficiency of the signatures.
About the determination process
The process to create, file and evaluate an initiative petition to a local government in Oklahoma is codified in Section 10 of Article IX of the City of Oklahoma City Charter, which incorporates Title 34, 1951 edition, of state law as the procedure to be applied to Oklahoma City initiative petitions.
The law allows residents to file a petition with their local government about a legislative issue. The petition would trigger a public vote if the required number of legally sufficient signatures are gathered. The petition’s subject becomes law if voters approve.
To trigger the public vote, the petition must be supported by a number of legally sufficient signatures equal to or greater than 25 percent of the number of votes cast in the municipality’s previous mayoral election.
City staff must review the petition and its signatures, and the City Clerk determines if each signature is legally sufficient. The law defining legally sufficient signatures includes factors like the address of people signing the petition and the number of signatures per page. People signing the petition must be registered to vote in Oklahoma City.
Once the petition with signatures is filed, the City Clerk must determine if the signatures submitted are in substantial compliance with state law and of a sufficient number to trigger a public vote. After filing with the Clerk, the Clerk is required to publish a notice of the filing.
Any Oklahoma City resident can protest the City Clerk’s determination within 10 days after the notice of filing is published. Under the Oklahoma City procedure, when a protest is filed, the Clerk holds a hearing and issues a ruling based on evidence presented in the hearing. The Clerk’s decision can then be appealed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
About the petition
The petition filed Nov. 9 calls for a half-percent income tax on most Oklahoma City residents to raise money for annual stipends for teachers, resident-teachers, school nurses and support personnel at local public schools. The tax would expire after four years and not be levied on low-income residents.
The petition needed 11,991 legally sufficient signatures to trigger a public vote, and 16,998 signatures were turned in. The City Clerk’s preliminary determination is that 9,090 of the signatures were legally sufficient, nearly 3,000 short of the required threshold.
The four most common reasons why a signature was deemed legally insufficient during the preliminary review are:
- Circulators didn’t provide a post office address, which includes a city and state or ZIP code, when signing the verification form.
- Signers were not registered voters.
- Signers failed to provide their street/residence address.
- Signers failed to provide their post office address, which includes a city and state or ZIP code.
The petition filing included 1,780 signature pages, which are being double-checked before the Clerk issues her final determination. The final determination is expected to be issued Thursday.
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