A charter change petition to altar the makeup of city council, and submitted to Orange officials Jan. 4 has been found deficient according to a letter from City Secretary Kerry Kittrell.

The certified letter was sent Jan. 20 to Bishop Raymond Young, Eulonda Adams, Edward Hawthorne and Annie Allen, members of a petitioning committee. Copies were sent to Orange City Manager Shawn Oubre and City Attorney John Cash Smith explaining the petition request would not be placed on May’s city ballot. The letter was sent to The Record in an e-mail Friday.

The petition had called for voters to weigh-in on three issues: that the council have four single member districts based on majority voting, and that only registered voters that live in the district could vote. “Candidates must live in their district,” it read.

No. 2 advocated “two at-large seats based on plurality voting. All voters can vote for these candidates. At-large candidates can live anywhere in the city of Orange.” No. 3 was for the mayor’s election by plurality.

The city took issue with the number of signatures. According to local government code, a petition should be “signed by a number of qualified voters of the municipality equal to at least 5 percent of the number of qualified voters of the municipality – or 20,000 whichever number is the smaller.” According to the city, that would be 573, based on a recent count by the Election Administrator’s Office of 11,471 qualified voters in the city.

The petition only had 149 signatures, which have not been certified.
The letter further states, “Seventeen signature pages are included in the petition. Only four pages are original documents; 13 pages appear to be copies”; and that no statement in the petition appears to have been completed for notarized.

This does not mean, however, that there won’t be five charter change amendments for considering on the May ballot. City council, along with a committee it created in 2009 (of which Bishop Young was also a member), recommended in December to place the amendments on the ballot. Council is expected to approve the recommendation.

• Amendment 1 would expand the number of council members from four to six, plus the mayor’s seat. 

• Amendment 2 would create four single-member districts and three at-large positions. Districts will be established and determined by a demographer and redrawn after each federal census, if required by state and federal regulations. Amendment 2 additionally reads, “Each candidate for city council in a particular district shall be a resident of that district.”

• Amendments 3 and 4 provide for staggered three-year terms to be determined by council and possible elimination of term limits.
• Amendment 5 would change from three to four the number of members to establish a quorum.

A change movement began in 2009 after some Orange Branch-NAACP members and other constituents expressed feelings of no council representation. The council has had an all-white makeup since the city annexed an area of Little Cypress a few years ago.