Supporters of a a coastal zone management initiative say they'll have enough signatures to put it on the ballot this fall, despite news early Tuesday that a state computer couldn't verify more than 10,000 signatures that the Alaska Sea Party turned in two weeks ago.
The initiative's backers say it would allow coastal communities a better say in how their lands are developed. They delivered more than 33,000 signatures to state offices in Anchorage two weeks ago -- but a Thursday report from the Division of Elections showed that a state computer wasn't able to verify more than 10,000 of those signatures.
The division's director, Gail Fenumiai, says the number of signatures that the computer wasn't able to verify is actually pretty normal, because in order for the computer to make a match, an initiative signer's name has to exactly match the name on the signer's voter registration.
"It's not unnormal to have a very high number of unqualified at that point in time, for various reasons, perhaps misspelling of a name," Fenumiai said.
"We're doing really well," Kerttula said. "We need a little more than 25,000 names to count to get on the ballot, and we're a little over 20,000 correct names, and there's a lot of names still to be gone through to see if they're proper."
If the state Legislature passes a "substantially similar" coastal management bill this session, the initiative would be moot -- and go away. But no one knows if that will happen this year.
"We're just wanting to think about any approach to try and get this moving ahead," said Senate President Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak). "I can't really say what's going to happen at this point."
One of the issues holding things up in the Capitol is the legal definition of a coastal zone bill that is "substantially similar." Members of the House have requested a legal opinion on the matter.
Fenumiai says it could take three to four weeks to check each of the unverified initiative signatures by hand.
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