Casper voters will decide on Tuesday, Nov. 17 whether they want a limited or a total smoking ban in buildings accessed by the public, incoming City Manager V.H. McDonald and City Attorney Bill Luben said Thursday.

At issue is the 2013 ordinance -- nicknamed Smoking Ban Light -- approved by Casper City Council that loosened the total smoking ban of a 2012 ordinance, nicknamed Smoking Ban Fully Leaded.

Council's action in 2013 prompted a petition drive by Keep Casper Smoke Free to force the city to hold a referendum to determine what citizens wanted. After two court decisions and a recount of previously disputed signature numbers, city council had to suspend the  2013 ordinance then formally repeal it or conduct the referendum.

On Sept. 22, council voted to kill the repeal, paving the way for the referendum for citizens to either uphold Smoking Ban Light or return to Smoking Ban Fully Leaded on the ballot.

"If they vote for it, they're approving and passing the ordinance amendments to allow smoking in taverns and bars, health care facilities and so forth," Luben said.

"If they vote against it, they're rejecting it and repealing it," he said. "So if they reject it, we're back to the total ban."

Either way, a smoking ban of some form will be in effect.

McDonald, Luben and city council leadership are hammering out the final language, and will show it to Natrona County Clerk Renea Vitto within the day. City council does not need to vote to approve the language, Luben said.

Vitto is in charge of elections, and said the referendum poses a few, but resolvable problems.

State law requires referendums to be held between 20 and 60 days after a city council agrees to hold a referendum, which puts a county clerk in a jam during an off-year election, Vitto said. "I would like to make it earlier, but I don't know that we're going to have time to get everything done."

The vote on the third Tuesday -- the usual day for voting -- of November occurs four days before the 60-day deadline for referendums. The date will give her enough time to prepare for the election and allow time for absentee voting, she said.

The city is refining the language on the ballot. Vitto would like that language by Oct. 19 so she can send it to the printer and get the ballots returned by Oct. 22, she said.

Once she receives the ballots, she can begin testing the voting machines and then have about three weeks for absentee voting.

Vitto earlier estimated the cost of the referendum to be $30,000, but it probably will be less.

To save money, the city will have two polling places in each of the three wards, instead of the usual 27 in the three wards, Vitto said.

The City of Casper has 18,259 registered voters, and people can register to vote at the polls so that number could grow, Vitto said.

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