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Friday, September 29, 2006

City says Newton North petition signatures are lacking

NEWTON

The city clerk's office ruled today that organizers of a referendum drive to overturn the current Newton North High School rebuilding project site plan did not collect enough valid signatures to send the issue to a ballot.

City officials said that since the city has approximately 53,000 registered voters, petition backers were required to gather 2,692 signatures to get the required five percent.

City Clerk David Olson said the Election Commission found the organizers had gathered 3,271 signatures, and that 700 were disqualified, leaving the petitioners 121 votes short of the number needed for the petition to be valid.

One of organizers, Jeff Seideman, said he challenged the city’s ruling on two counts today at noon.

Seideman, president of the Newton Taxpayers Association, said the city’s Election Commission miscounted the signatures and made a mistake in determining the number needed. Seideman said city officials are required to hold a hearing on the matter but did not know yet when that would take place.

Olson said the hearing, including representatives from both the Election Commission and Law Department, must be called within 14 days from next Monday.

Mayor David Cohen, a chief backer of the site plan, called Seidemen's claim of a miscount "ludicrous."

--Connie Paige

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