32-1409. Initiative and referendum petitions; signature verification; procedure; certification; Secretary of State; duties.

(1) Upon the receipt of the petitions, the Secretary of State, with the aid and assistance of the election commissioner or county clerk, shall determine the validity and sufficiency of signatures on the pages of the filed petition. The Secretary of State shall deliver the various pages of the filed petition to the election commissioner or county clerk by hand carrier, by use of law enforcement officials, or by certified mail, return receipt requested. Upon receipt of the pages of the petition, the election commissioner or county clerk shall issue to the Secretary of State a written receipt that the pages of the petition are in the custody of the election commissioner or county clerk. The election commissioner or county clerk shall determine if each signer was a registered voter on or before the date on which the petition was required to be filed with the Secretary of State. The election commissioner or county clerk shall compare the signer's signature, printed name, date of birth, street name and number or voting precinct, and city, village, or post office address with the voter registration records to determine whether the signer was a registered voter. The determination of the election commissioner or county clerk may be rebutted by any credible evidence which the election commissioner or county clerk finds sufficient. The express purpose of the comparison of names and addresses with the voter registration records, in addition to helping to determine the validity of such petition, the sufficiency of such petition, and the qualifications of the signer, shall be to prevent fraud, deception, and misrepresentation in the petition process.

(2) Upon completion of the determination of registration, the election commissioner or county clerk shall prepare in writing a certification under seal setting forth the name and address of each signer found not to be a registered voter and the petition page number and line number where the name is found, and if the reason for the invalidity of the signature or address is other than the nonregistration of the signer, the election commissioner or county clerk shall set forth the reason for the invalidity of the signature. If the election commissioner or county clerk determines that a signer has affixed his or her signature more than once to any page or pages of the petition and that only one person is registered by that name, the election commissioner or county clerk shall prepare in writing a certification under seal setting forth the name of the duplicate signature and shall count only the earliest dated signature. The election commissioner or county clerk shall deliver all pages of the petition and the certifications to the Secretary of State within forty days after the receipt of such pages from the Secretary of State. The delivery shall be by hand carrier, by use of law enforcement officials, or by certified mail, return receipt requested. The Secretary of State may grant to the election commissioner or county clerk an additional ten days to return all pages of the petition in extraordinary circumstances.

(3) Upon receipt of the pages of the petition, the Secretary of State shall issue a written receipt indicating the number of pages of the petition that are in his or her custody. When all the petitions and certifications have been received by the Secretary of State, he or she shall strike from the pages of the petition all but the earliest dated signature of any duplicate signatures and such stricken signatures shall not be added to the total number of valid signatures. Not more than twenty signatures on one sheet shall be counted. All signatures secured in a manner contrary to sections 32-1401 to 32-1416 shall not be counted. Clerical and technical errors in a petition shall be disregarded if the forms prescribed in sections 32-1401 to 32-1403 are substantially followed. The Secretary of State shall total the valid signatures and determine if constitutional and statutory requirements have been met. The Secretary of State shall immediately serve a copy of such determination by certified or registered mail upon the person filing the initiative or referendum petition. If the petition is found to be valid and sufficient, the Secretary of State shall proceed to place the measure on the general election ballot.

(4) The Secretary of State may adopt and promulgate rules and regulations for the issuance of all necessary forms and procedural instructions to carry out this section.

Source:Laws 1994, LB 76, § 391; Laws 1995, LB 337, § 6; Laws 1997, LB 460, § 8; Laws 2007, LB311, § 1.

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