Petition to amend city charter’s petition requirements circulates

Photo by Frank Weirich
Photo by Frank Weirich

A petition to change the current Iowa City Charter, which would reduce the number of signatures needed to put forth a city council initiative or referendum vote, has started to circulate around Iowa City.

Martha Hampel and Caroline Dieterle are part of a group that is collecting signatures for the petition. Hampel said the purposed amendment would make the city charter comply with Iowa Code 362.4, which says that a petition is valid if signed by 10 percent of the number of voters who participated in the last city election (but no less than ten people.) The Iowa Code also does not require those who sign a petition to be registered voters, but instead, be eligible electors.

The city charter currently says that a petition needs 25 percent of the total number of voters from the previous election, and no fewer than 3,600. Previously, the rules required those who signed to be registered voters. The city council voted in April 2015 to remove the qualified (registered) voter requirement, but added the 3,600 minimum. Dieterle believes these changes were made by the city to prevent “frivolous” petitions.

With the qualified voter requirement gone, the petition looks to amend the Iowa City charter to bring it further in line with the Iowa Code.

“We wanted it to comply with Iowa Code 362.4 which would only require signatures from eligible electors. People who are 18 years old or older and residents of Iowa City, and not felons, and to reduce that number to 10 percent of the number of people who voted in the last city election,” Hambel said.

When asked about the petition, Iowa City Councilperson Rockne Cole said he’d be supportive of what the petition called for.

“Generally, I’m supportive of anything that increases participation,” Cole said.

Believing that it would bring more people to the table, Rockne said it looked like a positive step forward.

Update: This story has been updated to clarify language regarding the Iowa Code.

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