After several heated debates and petitions for and against it, Pocatello’s non-discrimination ordinance is moving closer to a voter referendum. According to city clerk Ruth Whitworth, the City's legal department has drafted the language to put the non-discrimination ordinance on the May ballot.
The wording for that proposed ballot measure will go to the city council next Thursday for approval; if approved it will go to the county election office to be placed on the ballot.
The non-discrimination ordinance was passed by the council on June 6th of last year. Shortly after its approval, a group filed a petition to have the ordinance put to a voter referendum in November. City code allows petitioners 75 days to collect signatures for a referendum after the organization supporting it has filed what is called an initiative petition with the city.
Whitworth says she received the required number of signatures within the allotted time but they were not received by the County’s deadline for inclusion on the November ballot. She added, because the City’s deadlines were met, the election date will be on May 20th despite the petition specifying November 5, 2013 as the date of the voter referendum.
The petitioners originally submitted 2,077 signatures to the City for review. After verification by the City and county clerk 1,671 signatures were approved. Pocatello city code states the signatures of 20 percent of those who cast a vote “at the last general election in the city (Pocatello City Code 1.30.020).” Whitworth said the City is using the voter turnout from the 2009 City Election as their basis for the required percentage. Based off those numbers, the petitioners were required to provide 1420 verified signatures for the initiative to go onto the ballot.
The voter referendum is currently scheduled to take place on May 20th, the same day as the primary elections.