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Clerk determines tax petition doesn’t have required number of legal signatures
The recent petition regarding a local income tax to increase education funding does not include the number of legally sufficient signatures required to trigger a public vote, the City of Oklahoma City Clerk has determined.
The petition was filed Nov. 9 with City Clerk Frances Kersey, who reached her final determination Thursday after reviewing the signatures with Municipal Counselor Kenneth Jordan and staff.
City staff logged the determination for each signature page on a spreadsheet. For signatures not deemed legally sufficient, the log and notations on the signature pages list the specific reason or reasons why.
The signature pages and log are available for public review and inspection.
The petitioner may request a hearing on the Clerk’s determination. The Clerk would consider evidence in the hearing, and the Clerk’s ruling after the hearing may be appealed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
The only other parties with standing to appeal the Clerk’s determination are those who filed a protest to the petition itself. The petition protest deadline has passed.
About the determination process
The process to create, file and evaluate an initiative petition in the City of Oklahoma City is codified in Section 10 of Article IX of the City Charter, which incorporates Title 34 (1951 edition) of state law as the procedure to be applied.
The law allows residents to file a petition 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.
The required number of legally sufficient signatures is equal to or greater than 25 percent of the number of votes cast in the municipality’s previous mayoral election. People signing the petition must be registered to vote in Oklahoma City.
Once the petition is filed, the Clerk is required to publish a notice of the filing, and City staff reviews begins a review of the petition and signatures. When the review is complete, the Clerk issues a determination on the legal sufficiency of the petition and signatures.
The City Clerk must determine if the signatures are in substantial compliance with the law and of a sufficient number to trigger a public vote. The law defining legally sufficient signatures includes factors like the address of people signing the petition and the number of signatures per page.
Any Oklahoma City resident can protest the petition within 10 days after the filing notice 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.
The petitioner and anyone who protested the petition may also appeal the Clerk’s determination regarding the signatures’ legal sufficiency. The process is the same as the petition protest.
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 determined 10,821 of the signatures were legally sufficient.
The most common reasons why a signature was deemed legally insufficient are:
- Circulators didn’t provide a post office address, which includes a city 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.
In a preliminary determination issued Monday, the Clerk had found only 9,090 signatures to be legally sufficient. After further review, the Clerk and Municipal Counselor’s Office later determined an additional 1,731 signatures met requirements.
Those 1,731 signatures had first been ruled legally insufficient because, during the initial review, it appeared the circulator of those signature pages didn’t provide a post office address on the associated verification forms.
During a subsequent review, City staff determined the circulator included his post office address on one of the dozens of verification forms he signed. That allowed all of the signature pages he collected and verified to be accepted as legally sufficient.
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