With the filing of a petition to add an amendment to the Peters Township Home Rule Charter on the general election ballots Nov. 8, the Washington County Elections Office said a number of processes will take place to prepare the question that will go before the electorate.
Peters Township Marcellus Shale Awareness & Action filed the petitions bearing 2,422 signatures on Monday, one day before the filing deadline of Aug. 9.
Based on the formula that requires 10 percent of those who voted in the last election for the governor, the Marcellus Shale awareness group needed approximately 900 voters to have the question placed on the ballot.
County Elections Director Larry Spahr said the list of more than 2,000 names “would make it very difficult for someone to challenge the petitions on the basis of signatures.”
As filed, wording on the ballot question as proposed, would be:
“Should the Peters Township Home Rule Charter be amended to add Section 1.04 ‘The Peters Township Bill of Rights,’ which enumerates the right to water, the rights of natural communities, the right to a sustainable energy future, and the right to self-government; and which secures those rights by banning corporate gas extraction within the township and subordinating corporate rights to the rights of Peters Township residents?”
According to the elections office, a “yes” vote would indicate approval by the voter and a majority of “yes” votes would cause the proposed amendment to be included as part of the Peters Township Home Rule Charter.
A “no” vote would indicate disapproval by the voter and a majority of “no” votes would cause the proposed amendment to be rejected, and the Peters Township Home Rule Charter would remain unchanged.
Under the regulations of the ballot question, Peters Township and the Washington County Board of Elections are required to advertise the question once per week for three consecutive weeks, 30 days prior to the election, and a copy of the notice must be posted in Peters Township polling places on election day.
The county Board of Elections must also include the question in its official election notice.
As submitted by Marcellus Shale Awareness & Action, the amendment explaining the Bill of Rights is extensive, and according to Spahr will have to be written in plain English for it to be readily understood by all voters.
“(The amendment) will be written by county solicitors and will explain each of the (rights),” Spahr said.
According to the requirements, the explanation will indicate the purpose, limitations and effects of the ballot question to the people.
The statement is to be included in the notice of the election and three copies are to be posted at each polling place.
As of late Tuesday there were no challenges filed to the petitions presented Monday by MSAA.
The group has joined forces with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund to place the question on the ballots.
The question is similar to one that will be placed on the ballots in the City of Pittsburgh, which was also supported by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.
Read more from Monday's council meeting, including council's 5-0 vote in favor of the amendments made to the the proposed-conditional use ordinance governing Marcellus Shale drilling, here.