ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Albuquerque voters will almost certainly get an opportunity to vote on a proposed citywide ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
But it's when they'll get to vote on it that could cost the city a bundle of money.
Backers of the late-term abortion ban submitted more than 27,000 signatures, more than twice the 12,000-plus they needed to get the proposal on the ballot. City clerk Amy Bailey's office has until Sept. 6 to verify those signatures because of when the group started collecting those signatures.
As of Monday, Bailey says her office has verified less than a third of the signatures needed.
The timing puts the city in a tricky position because in order for an item to be on the October municipal election, signatures have to be validated and City Council has to pass an election resolution before Aug. 20.
Rey Garduno is just one of many Albuquerque City Council members who hopes the issue can be settled in October instead of at a special election.
"It serves no one any good to postpone it or put it on a special ballot simply because it's going to cost a lot of money," Garduno said.
Bailey estimates the cost of an increasingly likely special election at $600,000. The city could save some money if that election ran at the same time as a runoff election.
The cost and the increasing frequency of ballot initiative questions being proposed has led some council members to talk about changing the city charter.
"It could be increasing signatures. It could be making sure the timing of any special ballot election would be during a regular municipal election that could be one of the changes that could be made," said City Council President Dan Lewis.
"What I would like to do is require a change in the charter that they would have to be on a regularly scheduled election," said City Council member Isaac Benton. "You get your work done fine. [The] next regularly scheduled election, it's on the ballot."
Council members on both sides of the political aisle are also worried about the legal cost that could come up if the late-term abortion ban passes. It's unclear if the proposal is constitutional.
"If it is passed, the city will be sued if we enforce it and we'll be sued if we don't enforce it," said City Council member Trudy Jones. "I think that puts the city in an untenable position."
The abortion issue isn't the only ballot initiative that could soon be before voters. Another local group is collecting signatures for a proposed amendment to the city's minimum wage law. The change would cap annual increases of the minimum wage at 3 percent and change how tipped workers are treated under the minimum wage ordinance.
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