FORGOTTEN BOX OF POT PETITION SIGNATURES FOUND
A forgotten box containing 6,000 petition signatures of Clark County
residents might cost voters a chance to decide in November whether to
legalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana.
Organizers of the ballot question last week said they submitted 66,135
signatures. Out of those, they need 51,337 valid signatures to get the
issue on the ballot.
However, Billy Rogers, who works for the Washington D.C.-based
Marijuana Project and operates a local political consulting firm,
subsequently told the Election Department he found a box with 6,000
more signatures and wanted to turn them in after the June 15 deadline.
Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax said no, citing state law
that outlaws signatures from being turned in after the deadline.
The marijuana signatures were turned in on June 15, Lomax said, noting
that, under state law, even if they were turned in on June 10, the
additional signatures would not have been accepted if they were turned
in later that day. All signatures must be submitted at one time, he
Supporters of the measure, which also would increase penalties for
selling pot to minors and for driving under the influence of the drug,
remain undaunted even with the setback.
"We have more than 66,000 signatures statewide, we are confident we
will make it on the ballot," Rogers said today, noting that more than
35,000 signatures from Clark County were turned in where 31,360 were
Rogers wrote in a letter to Lomax dated Monday: "The discovery of
properly notarized signatures on June 19, 2004, should not
disenfranchise voters if a remedy exists to include them in the count
Lomax said a general rule of thumb is that during the validation
process three of every 10 signatures are tossed out for various
reasons, most commonly because the signer is not a registered voter.
"They are going to need an unbelievably clean petition," Lomax said
noting that 10 percent of 35,000 -- 3,500 -- would put the petition on
the cusp of failure.
"The Education First ballot question qualified yesterday with a 72
percent validity rate. Seventy percent usually is a good estimate,
though we have had much cleaner petitions and much worse than that."
Education First, which would require the Legislature to pass the
school aid budget first, turned in 83,046 signatures.
But if the 70 percent threshold holds true in the marijuana case, the
6,000 forgotten ballots might not have made a difference anyway. Those
signatures would have put the number at 72,000 names submitted, and 70
percent of that number is 50,400, which would be a few hundred valid
Rogers declined to comment today on why someone forgot to turn in the
additional signatures which currently "are being stored in the law
offices of Ross Goodman for safekeeping," Rogers wrote in his letter
Lomax said the validation process is under way for the signatures on
the marijuana question and four other questions and is expected to be
completed sometime next week.