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June 23, 2009 09:43 PM

Validating Smoking Ban Petition Signatures

 
Time is tight for the South Dakota Secretary of State's office. With barely a week until the statewide smoking ban is set to take effect, the office needs to sift through 25,000 signatures from petitions to put the ban to a public vote.
  If 17,000 are legitimate, the ban will be delayed and the issue will go to a public vote.

Before validating a single signature, Secretary of State Chris Nelson's office had to enter all 25,000 names into a database.

"The first thing we have to do is identify a five percent random sample of the petition signatures," Nelson said.

The computer makes that selection. Since the timeline is so tight, that took place on Monday, the same day the signatures arrived in the office.

"This deals with a law that goes into effect on July 1 unless we find enough signatures on the petition. So we have to know by midnight, June 30 whether or not there are enough signatures on this to determine whether the law goes into place," Nelson said.

Now, workers are going through county registration files to make sure each signature belongs to a registered voter.

"And then based on what we find there, we will extrapolate and come up with what we determine to be the total number of verified signatures," Nelson said.

Nelson expects that number to be in the neighborhood of 1,270 signatures. And he expects the process to be complete later this week.

If the petitions are valid, the statewide smoking ban will then go on to the Attorney General who will put together an explanation, which will then appear on the ballot in November 2010.

Hear more from Nelson about the process in an extended interview.  Click on the video player below.

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