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Group behind strong mayor petition says there's enough time for voter education

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Election commission employees verifying petition signatures Election commission employees verifying petition signatures

The certifying of petition signatures continues as the clock ticks down to bring the issue of a mayor-council form of government to Columbia voters.

Thursday the Richland County Election and Voter Registration office finished with the first 500 petition signatures.  Wednesday as many as 70 names of the more than 200 checked may have landed on the questionable list.

Friday morning they'll start with the second part of the process, checking every 10th petition signature.

They're working toward that magic number of 11,063 certified signatures. That's 15% of the city's registered voters.

It is still up in the air whether this issue will make the November 5th ballot.

There are a couple of ways it can happen. The first is if the election office certifies enough signatures, then the steps the city council took Wednesday night will allow it to make the November ballot. But if there aren't enough certifiable signatures the city can still vote Wednesday night to put it on the ballot.

"Yesterday it was a pretty good number. Based on my observation it was about 30% were being questioned," said citizen observer Howard Duvall. "I think the numbers are a little bit slower. They're not questioning as many. They're getting more good hits today."

The election office isn't releasing the numbers until the entire count is complete.  Thursday officials with Mayor Steve Benjamin's campaign joined the observers.  They'd like the results by the start of next week.

"We're hoping it's Monday and we think they have the capacity to do that," said Henry McMaster with Let Columbia Vote.

While it's not certain yet if the issue will make the ballot, we wanted to know more about the mayor-council form of government.  It's the majority form of government for cities and towns across the state and the mayor can be part time or full time.  The city manager may still have a position with a different title, administrator, and duties set by council, not the state.

"In terms of what happens to an actual city manager would be up to the city council to determine if it goes through," said Scott Slatton with the South Carolina Municipal Association.

The other big difference in the two of three forms of government:

"The person or the office that is responsible for administration of personnel matters, the hiring and firing authority goes from the city manager in state law to the mayor in state law," said Scott.  

While both sides argue differing points, the Let Columbia Vote campaign says their argument all along has been let the voters decide.

"What we're trying to do now is to just get it on the ballot on November 5th," said McMaster.

Let Columbia Vote two months is enough time to educate voters. 

Friday is when absentee petitions must be mailed out, so they can be printed that day. Richland county has a ballot on demand system that can do that, as well as allow military to cast a ballot online.  Director Howard Jackson was uncertain of how many military ballots had to go out.  The election is November 5th.

Click here for detailed information regarding the strong mayor form of government.

What questions do you have about the idea of a strong mayor in Columbia? Click here to send your questions and opinions and we'll take them to city leaders.

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