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Not enough qualifying signatures on wheel tax petition to put issue on ballot

On Monday evening the Johnson County Election Commission verified the results of a petition that has been circulating through the county. Requesting that the recently approved wheel tax increase be placed on the ballot in November, election officials spent several days and more than 16 hours carefully going through 65 pages of signatures to determine their authenticity and eligibility. For the petition to pass successfully, at least 10 percent of the active registered voters of the county would have to sign. With 11,249 registered voters, both active and inactive, petition organizers required a total of 464 verified signatures. After the final counting around noon Monday, the election commission certified that only 312 signatures qualified.
A total of 826 names were contained within the document, but the majority were unregistered, lacking in required information, or repeat signers. To ensure that the verification process was done fairly and with accountability, Director of Elections Mike Long requested the presence of the full election commission who also went through the many pages of the petition. County attorney Bill Cockett was also on hand to witness the official count.
According to Long, election law dictates that those signing the petition must follow a specific format that includes listing the same address used for voter identification. Post Office boxes are not eligible, and the address must match the one on file. Once the information was initially verified, election officials also checked the validity of the signature itself by comparing it to the one listed in the county’s computer database. Long confirmed that there were only a few cases where one person signed for another. In the few situations where there were questions concerning the authenticity of a signature, the election commissioners then had to make a determination.
The petition was filed by Robert Gentry who also collected and turned in the document within the required deadline, Friday around 2 p.m. Having contacted Mr. Gentry following the final count, Long confirmed that although he was naturally disappointed with the outcome, Gentry did not have an issue with the certification process or its results.
Unable to secure the required number of signatures, the original resolution passed by the county commission to raise the wheel tax an additional $10 will now stand. In an effort to combat budgetary shortfalls, $8 of the increase will go to the county general fund, while $2 will be placed in capital projects to be used to help repair or replace several deteriorating bridges across the county.  
For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.