Smart meter question ruled off Naperville ballot

 
 
Updated 1/12/2012 3:10 PM

Naperville residents are unlikely to have their voices heard regarding smart meters during the March primary election.

The Naperville Electoral Board -- consisting of Mayor George Pradel, Councilman Doug Krause and City Clerk Pam LaFeber -- unanimously ruled Thursday that petitioners did not submit enough valid signatures to attach a referendum question to the ballot.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A residents' group that opposes the use of such wireless meters attempted to ask voters, "Shall the City of Naperville immediately and permanently stop the implementation of the $22 million smart meter project and dismantle all related equipment?"

Resident William Dawe filed an objection to the referendum petitions on Dec. 27, alleging they contain signatures from people living outside Naperville and that the proposal contains a two-part question, both of which make it invalid.

"The most important requirement when collecting signatures is that, in order to be valid, the signatures must be signed by registered voters. The electoral board received into evidence certified records from election officials in both Will and DuPage counties. These official records reflect that the petition did not contain a sufficient number of signatures of registered voters to be placed on the ballot," said Pradel, who presided over the weeklong hearing. "The proponents did not submit testimony or affidavits from any of the signers to dispute the official records. That is a crucial issue before the board."

According to Thursday's ruling, 3,758 signatures of registered voters were required. Petitioners submitted 4,199, but DuPage County records persuaded board members to disqualify 565 of them because signers were not registered voters.

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LaFeber and Krause both said the attorneys were responsible for conducting an official review of the voter records, known as a binder check, but instead left the process up the board.

"It was left to the members of this board to examine the petitions against certified voter registration records provided by both Will and DuPage counties. My review shows multiple signatures were of residents that were simply not registered to vote," LaFeber said. "The facts are undisputed, the law is clear and the number of signatures presented falls short of what is required."

Kevin McQuillan, the attorney representing Dawe, said the ruling protects the integrity of the electoral process.

"If you look at the opinion, they found 565 invalid signatures. This is not about one or two invalid signatures. There are at least 565," he said. "I would hope this would be a primer to the people of Naperville. When you do a petition, get valid signatures. No one is being stopped from voting. All they have to do is do this right and they can put it on in the next election."

Doug Ibendahl, representing the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group, however, said the issue is far from over and questioned the legality of the ruling.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It's what I expected. This board hasn't followed the law throughout this entire process so I didn't expect today to be any different. This is unprecedented," he said. "Someone has been kicked off the ballot for signatures and there was never a records exam. The citizens have had all their work thrown away and they were never given due process to defend their signatures."

Ibendahl has five days to appeal the ruling.

"We'll be in circuit court next week and anyone who is even close to a fair judge will reverse this," he said. "There must be something really, really wrong with these smart meters that they are willing to go this length to squelch even the debate about them. This is a nonbinding referendum. It's advisory. We're far from done."

The long-running debate centers on the use of wireless smart meters that the city began installing earlier this month.

The city maintains the initiative is a safe upgrade to its $360 million electric network to provide more efficient, cost-effective and reliable service to customers. The plan's critics say they are concerned about the long-term health risks associated with the wireless RF meters and the safety concerns associated with connecting to a wireless network.

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