If the Sedgwick County elections office cannot confirm the number of registered voters who signed a petition to decriminalize marijuana by the end of Monday, the Wichita City Council may have to delay its planned vote Tuesday morning on whether to place the issue on the November ballot.
Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman said Monday morning that her office is continuing to recheck about 3,500 signatures to see whether they are registered voters and they are about halfway through the process.
The process is being delayed because her office is also preparing for Tuesday’s state and county primary election.
“I don’t anticipate getting it done today,” Lehman said. “We have a lot going on.”
She said county officials are communicating with city officials about the issue and that the county will work with the city on being flexible with the deadline to have questions placed on the ballot, which is currently Aug. 18.
City manager Robert Layton said City Council members have asked that the vote be delayed to Aug. 12 if the county’s review is not completed by 5 p.m. Monday.
If there are enough valid signatures, the city will have three options:• Approve the proposed ordinance outright and add it to the municipal code.
• Put the measure to a vote of the electorate.
• Legally challenge the wording of the petition.
Esau Freeman, president and co-founder of Kansas for Change, which is helping lead the marijuana decriminalization initiative, said that even if the City Council does not vote Tuesday, some supporters still plan to attend the meeting.
“We have a few things that we’d like to say and a few people who’d like their voices heard,” Freeman said.
“I really think the people at the election office are working hard to get the election in order and all of the things done at once ... We have no intentions of flooding city hall with millions of angry protesters tomorrow, but I believe this is an issue that won’t go away and it’s something that needs to be discussed openly and honestly with the public.”
Contributing: Dion Lefler