City Will Not Recount Rejected Casper Smoking Ban Referendum Signatures
City of Casper officials say they will not recount nearly 100 rejected smoking ban referendum signatures that were being challenged by Keep Casper Smoke Free earlier this week. In response, Keep Casper Smoke Free says it will now file a complaint in district court.
Keep Casper Smoke Free co-chair Kimberly Holloway said her group followed all of the correct procedures and a referendum on Casper’s smoking ban should take place.
“We believe we met the criteria set forth in the statute of gathering 10 percent of the qualified electors in the city of Casper – they signed their signatures and addresses to our petition and we got the required number,” Holloway said.
“We think the city clerk should accept those signatures and follow the strict construction of the statute, which he did not do,” Holloway said.
Holloway is referring to state statute 22-23-1005, which indicates that any ordinance adopted by a municipal government “shall be subject to a referendum vote if a petition signed by ten percent of the qualified electors registered in the city or town is filed with the municipal clerk not later than twenty days after the ordinance is first published after adoption as provided by law.”
The statute also says, for the signatures to be counted, “the electors shall be registered voters when the completed petition is submitted for verification.”
In July, city clerk V.H. McDonald rejected over 600 signatures collected by Keep Casper Smoke Free, causing the group to fall 61 signatures short of its target of 2,454. McDonald said many of the signatures were rejected because certain names and addresses didn't match up with a list supplied by Natrona County.
Holloway, however, insists many of the rejections were subjective.
“Despite the errors we found, I guess they don’t think there were enough errors made,” Holloway said. “Because of the arbitrary standards (McDonald) set on the verification process, we didn’t do it the way he wanted it done.”
Katrina Lorenzen, who chairs Keep Casper Smoke Free with Holloway, said she noticed inconsistent rejection criteria, particularly in regard to middle initial use.
Keep Casper Smoke Free said it submitted nearly 3,000 signatures last month in an attempt to force a special election that could have overturned changes to Casper’s public indoor smoking ban.
The ordinance was amended by Casper City Council in June to allow smoking in Casper taverns, lounges, bars, private clubs and healthcare facilities.
City clerk V.H. McDonald said his office is relying on its initial review of the petitions. McDonald also said the initial review was conducted without bias and used objective criteria.
"The original verification of petition signatures to the registered voter roll for the City of Casper will stand, with the results being that there were not enough signatures obtained to hold a special election for a referendum," McDonald later said in a press release.