Petition to put pot on the ballot short of signatures

WICHITA, Kansas -Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman says there are not enough valid signatures on the pro-marijuana petition.

However, this is not the first problem the petition faced since the paperwork was submitted to the city clerk’s office two weeks ago.

The first problem that came up was due to improper phrasing, and now elections officials said there were not enough valid signatures, which threatens to send the petitioners back to square one.

“We are going to challenge this ruling, and we’re gonna make sure that the peoples voice is heard. If it doesn’t get on the ballot, we’re not going away so we can either have a special election or do this all over again in April. It’s up to the city,” said Esau Freeman, Kansas For Change.

Now, it’s in the city’s hands to determine what happens next because according to the elections office, the petition doesn’t meet all the necessary criteria, despite having around 6,000 signatures initially.

“There was over 3,600 of them that we found to be invalid, most of which was because they weren’t registered in Sedgwick county at all,” said Tabitha Lehman with the Sedgwick County Election Office.

In order for the move to be put onto November’s ballot for a vote, it needed 2,928 signatures. However, it only had 2,881, only 47 signatures short.

If the petition would have been approved, voters would have decided whether or not to decriminalize marijuana in Wichita.

Aside from an admitted misprint from the elections office on paperwork which said there were more signatures, officials say everything was handled properly.

Still, those hoping to lessen the penalty for pot possession, said they’ll continue to fight for the cause which they believe has plenty of support.

“This is what’s frustrating is when the voice of the people is squelched by appointed elected officials,” said Janice Bradle from the Peace and Social Justice Center.

“These are cash cows for a lot of industries in our society and I can see why the city doesn’t want to let it go, but if they were to take a closer look they would see that this incarceration rate costs us an excessive amount of money as tax payers,” said Bradle.

Officials with the city will have the final say on the matter, if they choose to put the issue to rest by putting it on the ballot for November or ignore it once again.

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