The anti-St. George group Better Together said Thursday it believes the Registrar of Voters Office was off by as many as 239 signatures in validating the initial 18,000 signatures submitted on a petition to create a new city.
St. George organizers, hoping to secure a vote, turned in their first round of signatures on a petition with the goal of collecting support from 25 percent of registered voters in the proposed city.
The Registrar’s Office announced at the end of March that it had finished validating the more than 18,000 names that were turned in and found that only 15,156 were valid — creating a shortfall of about 2,700 names.
Better Together is suggesting the gap should be larger, closer to 2,900 names, based on its own review of the registrar’s work so far.
“This analysis shows that there are some major problems in the registrar’s validation process,” M.E. Cormier, a Better Together leader who led the group’s analysis, said in a statement. “These are concrete, objective examples showing several different kinds of mistakes made by the Registrar’s Office in vetting the St. George petition.”
St. George spokesman Lionel Rainey said the group that opposes creating a new city was just trying to interfere and create delays in the process.
“Nobody has better information and is more qualified to do this work than the registrar of voters,” Rainey said.
The anti-St. George grassroots group said organizers went through the registrar’s work, looking specifically at which names were kept and which were tossed as invalid, then compared that data to voter records. They contrasted the registrar’s work with another list of eligible voters for St. George provided in a public records request by the registrar.
“We are only looking at the two reports the registrar gave us,” Cormier said. “Their own reports conflict with one another.”
Of the 239 names Better Together is calling into question, it says 88 can “fairly definitively” be proven to be invalid based on voter records. For the other 151 signatures, there is “insufficient documentation to determine whether an error has been made, but there is substantial question about the validity of the signatures.”
The signatures the group believes to be invalid are from people it says registered to vote after the petition was submitted and people who don’t reside in or are not registered to vote within the proposed boundaries of St. George.
The group is asking the Registrar’s Office to address the errors and amend its counts.
“Our entire community, on both sides of this issue, is depending on the Registrar’s Office getting this right,” Cormier said in a statement. “Fixing these problems in the vetting process and getting an accurate signature count might be the most important thing that office ever does.”
Aimee Pourciau, a spokeswoman for the Registrar’s Office, said she couldn’t comment because her office had not received or been notified of the complaints.
St. George organizers last week turned in 4,630 signatures to try to close the gap and secure the 25 percent needed to get the incorporation issue on the ballot.
The margins are expected to be close because it’s likely a portion of those signatures also will be invalidated through the registrar’s screening process.
Better Together also submitted 810 forms from people who removed their names from the petition, and the group is still collecting more of those withdrawal forms.
That means the 230 signatures being called into question could be critical to St. George’s ability to put the incorporation question to voters.
The registrar is expected to finish verifying the remaining signatures in the coming weeks. If St. George is short this time, the entire petition process will be voided, and organizers will be banned for two years from restarting the effort.
If successful, a vote will be called where only the people in the proposed boundaries can vote to create a new city.