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How many signatures does anti-light rail extension effort need for referendum?

A sign displayed during a rally at City Hall shows members of the city council who seek reelection this year riding the Tide toward a cliff. No Light Rail, an organization started by John Atkinson, the city treasurer, has turned in signatures to place a referendum about light rail on the fall ballot. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]

A sign displayed during a rally at City Hall shows members of the city council who seek reelection this year riding the Tide toward a cliff. No Light Rail, an organization started by John Atkinson, the city treasurer, has turned in signatures to place a referendum about light rail on the fall ballot. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]

THE INDEPENDENT NEWS

COURTHOUSE – John Atkinson, the city treasurer who launched a grassroots effort to stop light rail from expanding to Town Center, gathered supporters at City Hall this past month to stress a message made clear by the group’s name: No Light Rail.

Many came to a rally planned well in advance and timed to a city council vote related to the potential extension, but supporters of bringing the Tide from Newtown Station to Town Center also showed up in numbers to support that. 

Ultimately, the council considered – and authorized over two no votes – an understanding that assures the state that the Beach is still moving toward the possible extension. It preserves state funding, and officials noted that the agreement is not a final decision, and that the referendum sought by Atkinson’s supporters will be completed before big decisions are made.

The advisory referendum effort – it’s non-binding – spearheaded by No Light Rail was waiting to see what will come of the signatures turned in and being counted by the voter registrar’s office.  

If the right number of signatures are there for a referendum, of course, it goes. But there may be a higher number that supporters of the referendum thought.

In an interview last month, Atkinson said there has been discussion about how many signatures are required to place the referendum question about extending light rail on the November ballot. Atkinson said the registrar’s office is counting to a higher number of signatures that Atkinson said his effort needs.

The organization gathered more than 32,000 signatures, and Atkinson said they believed about 16,500 were needed to secure the referendum. 

The registrar’s office required 26,770 because they are counting to a number based upon the 2014 general election rather than the 2015 general election sum Atkinson said is the number that should be used. The registrar verified 26,236 signatures, however, according to WTKR-TV.

The Independent News first reported the potential issue with the count in its April 15 edition. On Monday, the registrar’s office forwarded a letter to the circuit court saying Atkinson’s group met the 2015 number but not the 2014 number.

The letter was obtained by WTKR-TV and can be read at this link.

The initial referendum effort began this past fall, which may mean the higher 2014 number is used. 

That is the number the registrar’s office is counting toward, according to the office.

Petitions need to have 25 percent “of the number of voters voting in Virginia Beach at the last general election, as certified by the city registrar,” according to the section of the city code that governs advisory referendums.

John Atkinson, the city trasurer who formed No Light Rail, is seen at a rally last month outside city hall. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]

John Atkinson, the city trasurer who formed No Light Rail, is seen at a rally last month outside city hall. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]


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The Independent News

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