Light-rail opponents say they have collected nearly a third of the signatures necessary to put the light-rail extension issue on the November 2016 ballot.
No to Light Rail in Virginia Beach organizers said they've verified 7,500 signatures and could have as many as 10,000 when all the petitions from Election Day are checked. The petition was available to sign at about 40 of the 99 Virginia Beach polling places.
If 27,000 signatures are gathered, the referendum would ask Virginia Beach residents whether the City Council should spend local money to extend The Tide from Norfolk to Town Center.
Steve Miyares, a lawyer helping with the effort, said the group hopes to get 35,000 signatures â€“ more than enough to pass legal muster. It's already thrown out more than 100 signatures that didn't follow the necessary procedure, Miyares said.
He's confident the group can meet that goal through more petition drive efforts. Organizers hope to connect with civic groups, churches and neighborhood associations to collect the remaining signatures, Miyares said.
The group has until late August to turn the petition in to the state, but organizers hope to turn it in by June.
Virginia Beach's charter allows advisory referendums, which let the council gauge how people feel about an issue. The referendums are not binding, and the decision on whether to extend light rail would be up to the council.
Organizer Jimmy Frost said while the referendum is nonbinding, he hopes the council would listen to the will of the people.
The 2012 referendum, which asked residents whether the city should study the light-rail issue, was too confusing and voters didn't understand what they were voting on, Frost said.
By Jordan Pascale, reprinted from The Virginian-Pilot