Ramsey County voters will see two ballot questions on referendum requirements

In addition to the many political races on the Nov. 2 ballot, Ramsey County voters will also see two ballot questions on changing the requirements for getting referendums and initiatives on the ballot.

It would require fewer signatures to get an issue on the ballot and give organizers more time to get them.

There’s never been a referendum or initiative in the county, but the Ramsey County Charter Commission proposal appears to have been generated by the Ramsey County Board’s annual pay ordinance.

This year, the board voted to give itself no increase from the current $82,400 a year salary, citing economic conditions. But the board’s normal policy is to give the commissioners the same pay increase that non-elected county employees got the year before. If they’d followed the formula, a 3 percent hike would have made their pay $84,872.

Peter Hendricks, chair of the Charter Commission, said the proposed charter change may have had its genesis in the pay issue, but it’s broad and could cover other county matters as well. He said the idea isn’t to make it easy to get an issue on the ballot, but to make it less difficult.

Here are the questions that will be on the ballot:

Question 1 — Charter Amendment Regarding Minimum Signatures for Referendum or Initiative:
“Should the Ramsey County Home Rule Charter be amended to decrease the minimum number of signatures required for a referendum or initiative petition from ten percent (10%) to seven percent (7%) of those who voted in the county for the office of President of the United States in the last general election?”

Question 2 — Charter Amendment Regarding the Time Period for Obtaining Signatures for a Referendum:
“Should the Ramsey County Home Rule Charter be amended to increase the time period to obtain signatures for a referendum petition from thirty (30) days to forty-five (45) days after an ordinance is passed?”

Explained Hendricks:

“Currently, 27,817 signatures are required for any initiative or referendum petition. If Question 1 is approved, the number of signatures required will be reduced to 19,472 based on the 2008 Presidential election and this is approximately 4% of the total County population (2008). For comparison, the number of signatures required for an initiative or referendum petition in St. Paul is 2,723, or approximately 1% of the population.

And St. Paul allows 45 days to gather signatures for a similar petition, he said.

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