Full smoking ban off ballot, partial still on

Full+smoking+ban+off+ballot%2C+partial+still+on

By Gloria Lloyd
News Editor
glorialloyd@callnewspapers.com 

A full countywide smoking ban that was set to be voted on in the Nov. 6 election was thrown off the ballot by a judge last month. The ban will still appear on the ballot as Proposition E, but signs will caution that votes won’t count.

County Circuit Court Judge Nicole Zellweger pulled the St. Louis County Smoke-Free Air Act of 2018, Proposition E on the ballot, due to irregularities.

The amendment said it would add Section 4.160 to the county Charter, but such a section already exists, Zellweger wrote.

Maryland Heights Mayor Mike Moeller sued to get the measure taken off the ballot because he saw it as “fatally flawed” due to not exactly matching the language required to change the Charter.

Maryland Heights receives significant tax revenue from Hollywood Casino in its city boundaries. Its owner Penn National Gaming largely funded a competing initiative effort and is also buying River City Casino in Lemay.

Prop E was funded by the American Cancer Society and an anti-smoking coalition, but was strongly opposed by casinos. The full ban would no longer allow smoking in casinos or cigar bars. Casino interests placed their own competing measure on the ballot that would only ban smoking on 50 percent of a casino’s floors, leaving the other half still open to smoking.

Election officials received a letter from Moeller outlining his concerns, but they still certified the initiative petition for the ballot because they did not think the issues rose to major problems with the ballot language.

“This is not a minor ‘clerical error,’” the judge wrote.

Signers of a petition to place the measure on the ballot signed a form that they were registered voters, but not that they were “citizens and legal voters” as required by law.

That distinction “goes to the heart of election integrity,” the judge wrote, later adding, “It is fundamental that the people are bound by their own county Charter… To preserve the integrity of that concept and the election system, in this instance, the Court finds that there is greater harm if the improper initiative petition is allowed to proceed to a vote of the people.”