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Open Pittsburgh meets deadline for getting referendum on ballot, signatures yet to be verified

| Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016, 1:51 p.m.

A local group seeking to change Pittsburgh's home rule charter turned in 385 pages of petition signatures Monday, but whether it has the necessary 7,582 signatures has yet to be determined, said Mark Wolosik, manager of Allegheny County's Elections Division.

OpenPittsburgh.org wants to amend the city's charter to require Pittsburgh to put more of its information and meetings online and to establish a citizens advisory committee.

The group obtained a federal injunction last week that allowed it to ignore state election laws that blocked it from hiring out-of-state petition circulators. U.S. District Judge Mark Hornak also gave the group an extra week to gather signatures for the referendum.

The group gathered more than 5,000 signatures once it hired professional petition circulators, said Larry Otter, one of the group's lawyers. Added to the more than 3,500 signature the group had already gathered, the final push should put the proposal on November's ballot, he said.

Despite the outcome of the petition drive, the group's lawsuit against the Allegheny County Board of Elections is still pending. Hornak temporarily blocked the county from enforcing the ban on out-of-state petition circulators, but OpenPittsburgh had to post a $500 bond in case the final outcome of the lawsuit upholds the restriction.

Hornak denied the group's request to also block a section of the law requiring each page of petition signatures to be notarized. He also denied the organization's request that signatures from eligible but unregistered city voters count toward the total.

Pittsburgh hasn't decided whether to challenge the validity of the petition, said Tim McNulty, spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto.

“The city is proud of its efforts to expand public access to data and transparency, from the establishment of the Regional Data Center to a new website opening up the city contracting process,” he said. “While we welcome discussions on ways to expand access further, we are still studying the proposed measure.”

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