Hometown Democracy advocate wants answers

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Last month the Florida Secretary of State’s office said that the Florida Hometown Democracy Campaign had come up more than 65,000 signatures short of the 611,009 needed to qualify for the November ballot.

It was a bitter disappointment for supporters of the proposal, which would force public votes on big development decisions. The authors say they will continue to collect signatures so the measure can make the 2010 ballot.

But other supporters are angry at how the petition counting was handled with the Secretary of State’s office, and they say they’re not ready to drop the issue.

John Hedrick is chairman of the Panhandle Citizens Coalition. Last week, Hedrick wrote to Gov. Charlie Crist requesting a meeting to go over complaints that Hometown Democracy supporters have about how the state counted the signatures.

Ordinarily, county elections offices have 30 days to verify signatures. But when petitions are turned in less than 30 days before the Feb. 1 deadline, there's no longer a guarantee they'll be counted – and that’s what has led to criticism from Hedrick and others.

In his letter to the governor, Hedrick listed a series of other problems that happened with the signature count process. He says depending on where you lived, a valid petition submitted as late as Feb. 1 would count, while others were not counted even if the petition had been submitted by Jan. 2.

State election officials admitted in January that their offices were inundated with signed petitions to process, and the state then stopped posting the number of valid signed petitions, because they could not give an accurate count.

Hedrick, who also serves as the growth management and sprawl chair of the statewide chapter of the Sierra Club, said it seems that the Secretary of State’s office simply didn’t care.

WMNF spoke with a spokewoman for Gov. Crist last Friday. They said they could not confirm that the governor had yet received John Hedrick’s letter.

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