A League of Women Voters public event mulled amendments to the Iowa City Charter, looking at the petition process for voters.
By Madeleine Neal
The League of Women Voters of Johnson County held a public forum on Thursday night to discuss a proposal on the Nov. 8 ballot that would expedite the petition process for Iowa City voters.
Measure C, an amendment to Iowa Code 362.4, would lower the requisite number of signatures required to validate a petition to the municipal government in compliance with Iowa Code 362.4.
The City Code of Iowa [362.4] states that “if a petition of voters is approved by the City Code, the petition is valid if signed by eligible electors of the city equal in number to 10 percent of the people who voted at the last preceding regular city election, but not fewer than 10 people, unless allowed by state law.”
Former Iowa City Mayor John Balmer, Director of Operations Adam Sullivan, and political activists Martha Hampel and Caroline Dieterle composed a four-person panel at the forum hosted by the League, a nonpartisan group.
Sullivan said initiative petitions relate to new additions to City Code, while referendum relates to aspects of city code that need to be changed.
Alison Werner Smith, a League of Women Voters of Johnson County member, directed questions to the panel.
Balmar said he is very familiar with the Charter; however, he said he thinks it should stay the same.
“[Because] to my way of thinking, if an issue is merited, a substantial amount of the community will be behind it,” he said.
A University of Iowa release cited a Hawkeye Poll conducted in March 2015 that asked 363 Iowa City respondents to hone in on some possible changes to the Charter.
The results stated that 61 percent of respondents agreed with the proposal to allow all eligible voters to sign initiative petitions, but 31.8 percent said they preferred the status quo — which, the release said, limits signatures to registered voters.
All panel members said Iowa City voter turnout is disappointing.
Hampel said there is typically an increase in voter turnout when pressing issues are on the ballot.
“I feel like we should make local government accessible to the people,” Hampel said. “Thirty-six hundred signatures is an undue burden.”
The UI release said extension support to allow all eligible voters to sign initiative petitions was separated by age.
“Sixty-seven percent of respondents between 18 and 34 years old and 64.4 percent of respondents between 35-54 support the revision compared with 45.3 percent of those between 55 and 69 years old and 40.9 percent of those 70 and over who support the revisions,” the release stated. “Support was strongest among self-proclaimed independents at 74.8 percent and Democrats at 60.3 percent, compared to Republicans, among which only 19.8 percent supported the change.”
In the Sept. 30 article “League forum delves into Iowa City Charter,” The Daily Iowan incorrectly reported that Measure C was an amendment to Iowa Code 362.4; Measure C is an amendment to the city Charter. In addition, the DI said section 362.4 is a section of the Iowa City Code; it is a section of the Iowa Code. The DI regrets the error.