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Proposed charter amendment may be shelved

The Jefferson City Council is expected to place one proposed charter amendment on the informal calendar Tuesday amid fears that having two amendments on the same ballot could confuse voters.

On Tuesday, the council will see two bills concerning city elections: One would place a charter amendment on the ballot to allow for elections in February, while the other would place a charter amendment on the ballot to eliminate the need for a primary election. If passed, the amendments would be on the August ballot.

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Carrie Carroll said she doesn’t like the idea of moving both bills forward and that having both amendments on the same ballot could wind up confusing voters. She said she also is uncomfortable moving one particular bill forward considering the difference of opinion between the city attorney and county clerk when it comes to February elections.

City attorney Drew Hilpert has said having the option of a February election could be useful in annexation proposals, saving the costs of putting the issues on the August or November dates where the total bill for elections are typically larger.

But Cole County Clerk Marvin Register has said using the February date for anything but a bond issue is not allowed by the statute that took effect last year.

State law took away February primary dates, except in cases where a charter city specifically required a February election in the city charter. Because Jefferson City's charter does not specifically require a February primary, only that a primary election must take place, the council set the primary for March.

According to section 115.123 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri, “bond elections may be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in February, but no other issue shall be included on the ballot for such election.” The statute also states public elections may take place when “expressly provided by city or county charter.”

Register has said if the city seeks to place anything but a bond issue on the February ballot, the issue likely will wind up in court.

Hilpert said the danger in only moving forward the bill that places the amendment on the ballot to eliminate the need for a primary is that if it doesn’t pass in August, the city will be right back where it started without a good, workable primary date.

Carroll said she won’t be present at Tuesday’s meeting to place the bill concerning the February date on the informal calendar, but 5th Ward Councilman Ralph Bray said he would make the motion to do so. Since he is not the sponsor of the bill, he will need five other council members to vote in support of the motion to move the bill to the informal calendar.

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