Considering the anti-hydroplane fervor in the lake city this winter, getting a permanent ban on the ballot seemed a snap. With less than a week to go, organizers are a long way from docking their petition drive with the necessary 3,200 signatures. The question definitely won’t make the May 28 primary.
It may become an issue for a special August election. It’s more likely the proposal to ban hydroplane racing will go to the voters during the November general election. Or die.
Protect Our Lakes Association needs 2,000 more signatures by next Friday in order to even hope to make an August election. “It’s going to be a tough push,” acknowledges Kathy Canfield Davis, who is running the petition drive.
There are a number of factors thwarting what once seemed a sure thing. And it’s not a sudden change of heart about racing hydroplanes in the shadow of Tubbs Hill, racing opponents say.
“It’s not like the One Percent Initiative or the anti-gay initiative or the bear (hunting) initiative,” said Scott Reed of Protect Our Lakes Association. “There’s not a number of people out there who want to argue.”
It’s the difficulty of gathering enough verifiable signatures of registered Coeur d’Alene voters, combined with people’s unwillingness to put their name on a petition. “You run into people who say ‘gee, I don’t want to get involved,’ ” Reed said, even though these same people say they oppose using Lake Coeur d’Alene for the racing venture.
Signature gatherers, going door-to-door on the weekends, only find someone at home about 30 percent of the time. And many of the signatures aren’t considered valid by the city clerk because the people have moved since they last registered to vote. Or people sign with initials instead of a full first name, making their John Hancock invalid.
Protect Our Lakes is finding 63 percent of its signatures check out, which is good for a petition drive, but a much lower rate than the group anticipated. “I’m surprised - we’ll need about 5,000 signatures to get 3,200 valid signatures,” Davis said.
That number is determined by a state law and city ordinance. It requires that the equivalent of 20 percent of the registered voters, at the time of the last city election, sign the petitions.
It’s odd, Reed pointed out, considering a countywide or statewide petition only needs the equivalent of 20 percent of the number of people who actually voted in the last general election. If that were the guideline, Protect Our Lakes only would need 530 signatures.
“We have to get 700 more signatures than the number of people who voted in the last election,” Reed said.
Protect Our Lakes has gathered about 1,700 good signatures to date and will turn in the rest of the petitions April 12. If, after 10 days, the city clerk determines the group falls short, city ordnance allows it 30 days to come up with enough additional signatures.
“Probably May 22 would be their ultimate deadline,” said City Clerk Susan Weathers. If it takes that long to get enough signatures, other time requirements will push the hydro vote to the November general election.
That includes giving the city council 30 days to adopt the ban in lieu of an election, Weathers said. That may be in the best interest of ban promoters.
“August?” Weathers said. “That’s the last month of summer and I don’t know how many people would be around town and up to going to the polls for a single item.”
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Names games Number of signatures needed to get a permanent ban of hydroplane racing in Coeur d’Alene on the ballot: 3,200. Number of signatures collected: 1,200. Why so many signatures? Idaho law requires 20 percent of registered voters to sign the ballot issue petition.