The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

August 30, 2013

Signature error threatens council candidacy

OTTUMWA — Ottumwa voters will still have a primary in October, but they probably won't have as many candidates as they first thought.

City Clerk Amanda Valent said Friday the city, county and attorneys are taking a look at papers filed by one prospective candidate.

Eight candidates filed paperwork for the City Council, including petitions with signatures supporting their bids. Iowa law requires the petitions be from within the geographic territory covered by the office being sought. In this case, that means the signatures had to be from eligible voters who live in Ottumwa.

Dennis Renfrew's petition had 73 signatures, two more than the required number for this election. But it appears they weren't all from within the city limits. When the ineligible signatures were removed, it dropped Renfrew's petition below the required number of signatures.

“Currently, his name is on the ballot,” Valent said. “Everything is up with the auditor right now. Things can change between now and Tuesday.”

Valent said she had not spoken to Renfrew as of Friday afternoon but planned to do so. She emphasized her belief the mistake is an oversight by a new candidate rather than an intentional attempt to sneak invalid signatures through.

The final decision isn't up to the city clerk. Under Iowa election law, the clerk has very specific duties and restrictions.

“We accept [petitions] on face value, and then we file with the auditor,” she said.

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