Voters may face 7 ballot questions

By Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer July 12, 2013 09:41 pm

Voters will wear a path to the polls this fall, as seven questions might be posed to them, ranging from recalls to taxes and changes in county government.

Whether the County Elections Office can fit at least some of them onto the same ballot has yet to be determined, Supervisor of  Elections Shelley Denney told county commissioners Wednesday.

Elections can be held four times in Curry County, usually March, May, September and November. But when citizen initiatives are proposed, other elections are sometimes required, she said.

When paperwork is submitted can determine when an election will be held and if more than one issue can be addressed at that time, Denney said.

Her department has two recall petitions awaiting approval. When the signatures for those — and any other ballot questions — are submitted and verified, an election must be held within 35 days.

“If they come in at the same time, we can get them on one election,” Denney said. “But if they don’t come in (in somewhat the same time period) there has to be separate elections.”

Election officials hope to consolidate most of them because, if they are conducted separately, each election costs about $25,000 and is borne by the district, county or city affected by the question.

The cost is based on the number of registered voters in the district, city or county and the number of ballots sent out — “and we have no control over it,” Denney said.

Four possible ballot questions — a request from city leaders in Port Orford to extend a property tax for police services, a question from Curry Health Network for a $10 million general obligation bond to build a new hospital, another asking to change the form of county government and the last a property tax proposed by county commissioners — are going through various steps to get on a ballot.

Three of those the office expects to process are requested elected-officials recalls, and those questions must be posed in separate elections, Denney said.

Right now ...

Currently, those petitioning to change the county’s form of government to home rule hope to get their signature-collecting paperwork July 12. Another to recall Commissioner David Brock Smith has just been approved by the county, and proponents plan to hit the streets seeking signatures Saturday. A third to recall Commissioner David Itzen is awaiting state approval.

Denney has yet to see requests she’s heard will be presented from Curry Health Network, a property tax being crafted by the county commissioners, or the city of Port Orford’s police levy question and another there asking for the recall of Mayor Jim Auborn.

All those requests have the Elections Office staff scrambling to meet deadlines, verify signatures and ensure all legal requirements are met. That’s on top of other work the Clerk and Recorder’s Office regularly conducts: issuing marriage licenses, filing land transactions, addressing land annexations and processing passports.

“And I’m the only one in elections besides the county clerk,” Denney said. 

She asked county commissioners Wednesday to consider hiring one full-time employee to help with the backlog in that office, but commissioners deferred that discussion to a later date, saying they have no idea where they would find the $27,000 to pay an additional employee. 

Smith noted that, without changing the budget or taking more money from the Road Fund — and with no additional revenue anticipated to come in the near future — the county will have in the bank $50,000 as of next July.