Goldman has until Aug. 30 to show signatures on Coliseum referendum were wrongly rejected

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 8/23/2019, 6 a.m.
Paul Goldman is refusing to give up on his effort to allow Richmond voters to weigh in on the huge ...

He said a state law on referendum petitions, 24.2-684.1, does not require signers to list an address as is the case with candidate petitions. While an address could help with identification, he said Ms. Showalter’s method essentially disqualifies people who move a lot, notably low-income people seeking to help get a referendum on a citywide issue on the ballot.

“I think that is just wrong,” he said.

A Free Press reporter checked a sample of 19 pages of the petitions Mr. Goldman submitted and found at least eight registered voters listed as “cannot be identified” despite a match between the petition information and the names and addresses on the voting rolls. At least 10 more individuals show up as registered Richmond voters despite an address change.

Former Attorney General Anthony Troy, who is not representing or working with Mr. Goldman, independently said that Mr. Goldman has made a correct reading of the law regarding referendum petitions. He said the General Assembly loosened the requirements regarding petition signers on referendums and added that an address is not required by law.

He also noted that the General Assembly modified the definition of a “qualified voter” in 2013 to make it easier for people who had moved to sign petitions for candidates. In the case of a citywide referendum like Mr. Goldman is pushing, Mr. Troy indicated that the change would mean a voter registered in the city could legitimately sign even if the address on the petition was different from the one on the voting rolls.

Ms. Showalter stated that state regulations require the “new address and the old address to be in the same precinct” before the signature can be accepted, even on a citywide issue.

She also said that she would have to see the names of petition signers whose names and addresses were exact matches to the information on the voter rolls.

“I can’t accept verbal claims,” she said.

City officials, including Mayor Stoney, have criticized Mr. Goldman’s proposed referendum as needless grandstanding. Richmond School Board member Cheryl Burke and Rev. Orrin K. Pullings Sr. of the United Nations Church in South Side also have been vocal in their concerns over Mr. Goldman’s efforts to let voters have a say on the Coliseum redevelopment plan. They filed a motion to dismiss the referendum outright. Judge Taylor has not ruled on their motion.

Mr. Goldman’s referendum could be the last shot for Richmond voters to express their opinion on the plan to replace the Richmond Coliseum.

A majority of City Council members rejected an effort by 8th District Councilwoman Reva M. Trammell and 2nd District Councilwoman Kim B. Gray to put an advisory referendum on the Nov. 5 ballot that would allow voters to express themselves on the plan to use taxpayer funds to pay for the proposed 17,500-seat replacement arena.