Gazette investigation: Flaws found in petition validation

More than 600 pages of signatures scrutinized

Erin Jordan
Published: July 1 2012 | 6:14 pm - Updated: 31 March 2014 | 9:08 pm in

A Gazette review showed flaws in the validation of a petition used to secure a vote on a local-option sales tax in Linn County.

Although several dozen signatures likely should have been stricken from the petition, the number of valid signatures still surpassed the required minimum.

The Linn County Board of Supervisors, which served as filing officers for the Cedar Rapids Extended Sales Tax (CREST) petition, was required by law to throw out names that did not include signature, “statement of place of residence” and date of signing.

County Supervisors Ben Rogers and Lu Barron worked with members of the League of Women Voters to pore over more than 600 pages of handwritten signatures, Rogers said.

The group marked a little more than 100 signatures as invalid, reducing the number of valid signatures to 4,797.

The Gazette, in its investigation, was able to decipher and match 4,292 names to voting records.

Among validated signatures, The Gazette identified 17 people who did not list their city or state, 10 who listed addresses outside Linn County and hundreds of others with illegible addresses. The review found one person who signed the petition twice — with both signatures approved.

“There may be mistakes,” Rogers said. However, “because CREST got such a large amount, over the number required, it wouldn’t have put their petition in jeopardy.”

CREST was required to get 4,032 signatures, which was 5 percent of the Linn County residents who voted in the last general election.

The supervisors also checked the header of each petition page to make sure it properly identified the group seeking signatures, the issue and the time period in which the group wanted the vote to occur. Rogers said they struck a handful of signatures printed on the backs of petition pages because there was no header on that side.

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