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Maui GMO initiative gets more signatures

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WAILUKU >> Activists have handed in more than 9,000 additional signatures to the Maui County Clerk’s office in support of a moratorium on growing or testing genetically modified foods.

The new signature submission comes after more than half of the signatures the group turned in last month were found to be invalid.

The citizens’ initiative must have valid signatures of 8,465 registered Maui County voters to appear on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.

Sustainable Hawaiian Agriculture for the Keiki and the Aina Movement earlier gathered 4,720 valid signatures, The Maui News reported. The initiative needs another 3,745 to go forward this year.

The initiative seeks to ban genetically modified organisms in Maui County.

If the clerk’s office determines the signature requirement has been met, a proposed ordinance would be forwarded to the County Council for review, said Maui County Clerk Danny Mateo. The council would have 60 days to review and act on the proposal. If the council doesn’t approve the proposal, it would be returned to the clerk’s office and prepared for the ballot.

About half of the more than 9,700 signatures the group submitted last month were invalidated.

The county clerk found duplicate signatures, insufficient or incorrect information and signatures with illegible handwriting. Some people who signed were not registered to vote in Maui County.

SHAKA Movement spokesman Bruce Douglas said the group wasn’t challenging the clerk’s finding that 52 percent of the signatures submitted in the first batch were invalid.

“We did our own verification and found a similar number to what the county said were bad,” Douglas said.

Douglas said the group is confident it will meet the goal after submitting 9,376 more signatures Tuesday, even if a similar number of signatures are found to be invalid this time.

The clerk’s office has 10 days to verify the new signatures.

“The work begins tonight and into the evening,” said Mateo.

He said the office had 45 days to validate signatures in the initial submission. With much less time to validate a similar number of signatures, “We already have people scheduled for evening and weekend work,” Mateo said.

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