ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins Co. Administrator of Elections Donna Sharp announced Sunday, Aug 13, that a petition drive mounted to force a referendum on a $40 wheel-tax increase approved in June by the County Commission had fallen 127 signatures short of the 1,095 registered voters need to require that the referendum be held.

In a message sent to a Review reporter, Sharp wrote that when the verification of signatures on all 175 pages of petitions seeking a referendum was completed, the petition pages were found to bear a total of 2,231 signatures.

Of that number, Sharp wrote, 968 signatures were verified as those of registered Hawkins County voters. But a total of 1,263 signatures were not approved during the verification process. Among the signatures not approved by Election Commission staff, 770 signatures were not those of registered voters and 493 signatures were not approved for other reasons.

Sharp said some to 493 signatures that were not counted were not approved because they did not appear to match the signatures on file in the Election Commission’s database of signatures of registered voters.

Others were disallowed because the address listed on a petition form along with a signature was in a different voting precinct than that listed in Election Commission records for the registered voter who had signed the petition.

Had a petition signer’s address been different from that on record but still in the same precinct, the signature would have been approved, according to Sharp.

Other signatures were not approved because the signer had signed on the back side of a petition form. To be accepted, she said, signatures had to be on the front side of the petition form beneath the petition language that called for a referendum to be held on the wheel-tax increase.

In yet other cases, Sharp said, signatures were not approved because it appeared that someone other than the registered voter had signed the petition in the registered voter’s name.

Sometimes, she said, it appeared that a member of a family had signed a petition form in the names of several members of their families. In such cases, she said, only the signature of the registered voter who signed the petition was approved by the Election Commission.

Sharp noted that she finished the process of verifying petition signatures at about midnight Saturday, Aug. 12.

Bring signature questions to office

Noting that she expected that some signers of the petition would be upset upon learning that not enough signatures of registered voters were on the petition pages to require the holding of a referendum on the wheel-tax increase ($27 to $67 per regular vehicle), Sharp said those with questions about whether their signature was approved should come to the Election Commission office with a photo ID so that Election Commission personnel can be sure they are speaking with the actual registered voter who signed the petition.

Questions about petition signatures cannot be dealt with over the phone, Sharp said.

One thousand and ninety-five verified signatures of registered Hawkins County voters had been required to force the holding of a referendum (via a special election) on the wheel-tax increase the County Commission passed by two-thirds majorities in May and June to balance the county’s 2017-18 budget.

Election Commission personnel had been working since late July to verify that the signatures on the 175 petition pages that had been submitted by the July 26 deadline were, in fact, those of registered Hawkins County voters who personally signed the petitions.

Sharp noted that she had been hospitalized overnight during the weekend of Aug. 5 and 6 after falling ill on her way to the Republican Picnic at Laurel Run Park. After being released from the hospital, she said, she returned to work on Monday, Aug. 7.

On Sunday, she said she now hoped to be able to rest, but noted that the process of verifying petition signatures had gotten Election Commission personnel behind on other aspects of their jobs.