The petitions are verified, but the debate may be far from over - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

The petitions are verified, but the debate may be far from over


The City of Tyler says they have finished counting and verifying petitions for a possible vote on beer and wine sales in the city. Staff is set to ask the city council for a November election at Wednesday's city council meeting.

Opponents of the push to get beer/wine in the City of Tyler, the group named Stand Strong for Tyler, have asked the city for a delay in asking for the election. The group claims they have found errors in the petitions and have not had enough time to finish going through all of the signatures.

City spokesperson Susan Guthrie said the city attorney's office finished counting and verifying the signatures at the end of last week.

According to figures released by the city, Petition #1 (which was for the vote for off-premises sale of beer/wine inside city limits) had 9,257 signatures and 8,340 of those could be validated as registered voters. The petition still met the city's requirement of 7,895 signatures required for the council to call an election.

Petition #2 (which was for the legal sale of mixed beverages in restaurants inside city limits) had 9,094 signatures and 8,113 of those signatures were verified as registered voters. That petition also met the city's requirement of 7,895 signatures required for the council to call an election.

The city attorney's office said they went through an extensive process to review and verify these petitions. The office provided us with the workflow of how the process worked:
  1. Discussion with Buy Local First (group filing) & Stand Strong for Tyler (group opposing)
  2. Discussion with Smith County election and legal representatives.
  3. Discussion with Dallas election and legal representatives.
  4. E-mail discussion with Texas Municipal Clerks Association e-mail group.
  5. E-mail discussion with Texas Secretary of State's office
  6. Creation and Completion of a five-step review and verification process:
    • counting and verification of each signature with a voter registration number on each petition page by a counter who  showed the number of validated names at the bottom of page along with note about any questions and entered the results into an Excel database;
    • City Clerk reviewed and checked each page to verify the numbers shown on the bottom by the counter;
    • City Clerk & Senior Assistant City Attorney reviewed each page and checked each entry made in the Excel database. Separate excel spreadsheets were prepared for each petition that include the 10 columns of information that will "show our work" and allow for review of signatures counted and those not counted by any interested person;  The database includes the following 10 columns of information:   (or identifiers used to validate or not) are:  Page # of petition;  Voter registration #/this column used to count validated signatures; Suspended voters/not counted; Date of birth where not match/not counted; Address different/counted if petition address while different from registration list address was still inside city limits; name of voter different/last name/apparent female & if other indicators match/counted; voter registration # not valid/not counted; N/A or NF/not counted; address not inside city limits/not counted; duplicated signatures/signature counted 1 time and any subsequent duplication /not counted.
    • City Clerk & Senior Assistant City Attorney verified that all Petition pages provided were present, counted, and entered into review database;
    • City Clerk & Senior Assistant City Attorney did a final "duplication check" review by searching the review database for any voter registration # duplications;
  7. Upon completion of these prior steps, the petitions were considered to have been properly reviewed and the minimum number of names required to call an election were considered to have been verified, so a Resolution calling elections on the 2 petitions was placed on the July 25, 2012 City Council agenda.
Guthrie said if Stand Strong for Tyler were to have found more errors in the petitions it would likely not affect the petitions to where they would be below the amount of signatures required by the city to call the election.

City officials said if an error comes up after an election is called, the opposition group could file an injunction to delay the election.

The opposition group, Stand Strong for Tyler, released a statement late Tuesday and said the city council was not required to place the item on the agenda for another thirty days. The group said the city could have placed the item on the August 8th council meeting and still been within the August 20 deadline for calling a November election.

Spokesperson Deon Williams said, "All we want is a fair and transparent process that insures enough valid signatures are on the petitions."

Williams said the city gave them ten days between when they received the petitions and when the council is set to vote on whether to have a November election. 

"By waiting until the 8th [of August] the City could have provided us sufficient time to more thoroughly analyze the petitions," Williams said. "But instead they want to rush to place the issues on the ballot before sufficient scrutiny of the petitions has been allowed."

The city council is set to meet Wednesday morning at 9a.m. at Tyler City Hall. The Stand Strong for Tyler group is scheduled to have a press conference outside of Tyler City Hall at 10a.m.

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