Walter Griffith has called off an effort to place a home rule study question on Luzerne County’s May 15 primary ballot due to a lack of petition signatures.
A total of 3,722 signatures were required to get the question on the ballot, or 5 percent of the 74,436 county votes cast in the last state governor’s race.
Griffith and other volunteers obtained approximately 900 signatures, and the last day to circulate petitions seeking signatures is Feb. 13, he said Tuesday.
“We didn’t even make a third of what we needed,” Griffith said
He posted a message on the “Luzerne County Government Study Commission 2018” Facebook page Jan. 27 to cancel a Feb. 10 gathering to notarize petitions.
“I appreciate the help and hard work of everyone that tried to make this happen; however, the weather and other factors made it almost impossible,” Griffith wrote.
Griffith said he warned from the start the collection of that many signatures was a “huge undertaking.”
Many voters approached about signing the petition had detailed questions about home rule and the study commission process, which reduced the number that could be obtained, he said.
“If people don’t know what’s going on, you have to spend a lot of time explaining, so you can’t get a lot of ground covered,” said Griffith.
Voter signatures are necessary to proceed because a county council majority voted Dec. 12 to reject county Councilman Edward Brominski’s proposal to place the study question on the ballot.
The proposed question would ask voters if they want to elect a seven-member commission to study the county’s home rule government structure, which has been in effect since January 2012. If the commission determines changes are warranted, it would draft and recommend a new home rule charter that would then require voter approval for adoption.
Griffith and others spearheading the signature push chose a ballot question that forces the commission to keep a customized home rule structure, ruling out an option to return to the prior system that had been in effect more than 150 years.
He plans to revive the push in June to place the question on the November general election ballot, saying petitions can be circulated starting June 19.
“The weather will be warmer, and there will be plenty of bazaars and political activity by our federal and state candidates, that will get us a better ‘audience’ to gather signatures,” he wrote on the Facebook page.
Under the current home rule structure, 11 council members and an appointed manager make decisions previously handled by three elected commissioners and several elected row officers.
Past suggested home rule alterations have included reducing the council’s size, switching the manager to an elected post, and restoring more power to the elected controller.
Critics of the ballot question have argued six years under the new system is not enough time to effectively evaluate its successes and shortcomings.