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The municipal council approves the abortion ordinance’s ballot from the committee

At Tuesday’s Amarillo City Council meeting, the city clerk presented the affidavit and statement from the Abortion Ordinance Initiating Committee for placing its measure on the November ballot.

The 18-page ordinance, which is listed to designate the city of Amarillo as a “sanctuary city for the unborn,” was overwhelmingly rejected by the City Council in a 4-1 vote on June 11 due to its language aimed at creating an abortion travel ban , which would seek to create a civil action against anyone who helps someone seek a legal abortion in another state. Most of the council found that the ordinance was outside the jurisdiction and scope of a city while not standing on firm legal ground.

Mayor Cole Stanley reiterated that he and other council members believe this is a state issue and should be addressed by the state Legislature.

Stephanie Coggins, City Clerk, spoke to the council about how the ordinance needs to be worded on the ballot. She said it had to be a fairly short statement with some flexibility in the ballot language from the city council.

“At the state level, the language has to be a statement and only appear on the ballot once. But with our local charter, there is some flexibility,” she said. “It includes the title and a brief statement about the nature and purpose, so I think that’s where the council can have some flexibility to add more detail if we keep it as a statement and don’t get too detailed in it. I think they have space to add some details as to the nature and purpose of ammunition.”

Coggins stressed the city would work with legal counsel to get feedback on proper ballot language. She said it must be simple and create a clear understanding of what the proposal is.

During the meeting, Councilman Tom Scherlen stated the importance of having a properly worded ballot, especially with the core point of the abortion travel ban ordinance.

“The problem I have with the vote explanation is that the meat of the abortion ordinance is the travel ban,” he said. “I don’t see anything here that says that. To me, that raises a big question, because that’s the issue that was really brought up as the main thing that this group wanted. If at all possible, that wording needs to be on the ballot wording. ”

Stanley talked about the next step for the city in the election process.

“Today was the deadline for the ballot presented to the council,” he said. “We still need time to work with our attorneys to get the ballot language as accurate as possible. We don’t want to miss anything that’s in that ordinance, but at the same time we need to put in a declaratory statement that shows that here’s the purpose — here’s the character of this within the limits we have to put a concise statement that people can read and vote for or against at the poll.”

Among the issues Stanley sees with the ordinance is that it is quite lengthy and that it will be a challenge to craft a concise statement that truly encompasses this measure.

“Not only do you have the legal theory components that haven’t been challenged in court, but you also have the issues of state versus local jurisdictional boundaries,” he said. “What are you going to have jurisdiction over if the state has already spoken about it.”

Stanley emphasized that the city will work with its legal counsel to come up with the correct wording to convey the ordinance to voters. Once the ordinance is placed on the ballot, Stanley said it will be out of the council’s hands, and he urges city citizens to carefully read the 18-page ordinance to fully understand what they are voting on.

“I would say, read the ordinance,” he said. “I don’t know how many phone calls I’ve taken saying, ‘Hey, have you read that? Yes, no, I haven’t read it. But here’s what I heard.” And honestly, just read the ordinance and study it yourself. It’s not something you can just determine and understand from a simple statement.

When asked if a short ballot message would lead to a lack of understanding of what voters were voting for, Stanley expressed that the challenge is making sure voters are educated on the issue.

“I think we’re going to have to rely on a simple statement that says as much as we can about the ballot,” he said. “I think the real challenge is to get people out and vote and to always educate the voter. I don’t worry more than on any other issue.”

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