As of this evening, City Councilman Carl DeMaio and supporters of his outsourcing and contracting initiative haven’t confirmed whether they’re willing to pay $150,000 for a manual count of petition signatures needed to put their much-anticipated measure on the November ballot.

But it may not matter: The registrar of voters said today that there’s not enough time to verify the signatures by an August deadline.

The registrar is swamped with other work, including other preparations for the November election, and won’t be able to get to the signature-by-signature count for two weeks, said Deborah Seiler, the registrar of voters. She estimated that it would then take 41 days to verify the submitted signatures.

By that timeline, the whole process will take well beyond the Aug. 6 deadline to qualify a measure for the November ballot.

Supporters of the initiative, which would overhaul the city’s contracting and outsourcing procedures and apparently repeal its living wage ordinance, submitted 134,441 signatures. They need 96,834 signatures, which is 15 percent of the city’s registered voters, to qualify the measure for the ballot.

The registrar of voters checked a random sample of 4,033 signatures — 3 percent of the total — and verified just 3,212 of them. They extrapolated that number, with a special adjustment for duplicate signatures, to the whole lot and estimated that 74,732 signatures were valid.

That’s not enough.

If the initiative supporters want a full count, they’ll have to pay for it. CityBeat reports that the cost will be $150,000. (It’ll be less if the registrar discovers enough valid signatures before it’s done looking at all of them.)

The verification process “takes trained personnel and it takes time,” Seiler said. “You can only have so many people working on this, they have to understand how to use our voter registration system, and they do have to know what they’re looking for, what’s required. You can’t just pull in people off the street and have them this do this work.”

While one person may be able to verify 20-23 signatures in an hour, she said, only a total of 23 full- and part-time staffers would be available to work on the verification project, and they have other responsibilities.

“This measure really needed to qualify on the basis of the random sample in order to make that deadline,” Seiler said.

In another development, initiative supporters are raising questions about how the registrar uses a special formula to give more weight to duplicate signatures discovered during the sample count. The formula, which is required by law and has been in place for decades, imposes a “big penalty for duplicate signatures,” Seiler said.

The U-T reported that the registrar discovered 30 duplicate signatures in the sample.

There was still more news about the initiative today: CityBeat reported that only five people asked to remove their names from petitions supporting the measure. Last night, Labor Council leader Lorena Gonzalez raised eyebrows by using Twitter to declare this: “thousands of san Diego residents coming forward to say they were tricked into signing.” (Labor opposes the initiative.)

Even if the thousands are coming forward, it’s too late. The story says the deadline for withdrawing signatures has passed.


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