The Casper City Council unanimously decided Tuesday to move up the date of the election that will decide whether to allow smoking in bars.
The election will now take place Nov. 3. Previously, the Natrona County clerk had set the election for Nov. 17.
But Mayor Charlie Powell said Monday that pro- and anti-smoking factions indicated they would sue the city if the vote was held then, believing it fell outside the time frame for special elections established by state law. That’s why the Council had considered changing the election date, according to Powell.
“The signatures on this referendum were certified on Sept. 4,” Casper resident and former City Councilman Keith Goodenough told Council members. “It is now the 39th day of the 60-day window.”
Goodenough said the 60-day clock started ticking when the city clerk decided there were enough signatures from a 2013 petition to have an election.
Others, including City Attorney Bill Luben, believe the 60 days began Sept. 22, when the Council voted in favor of an election on cigarettes in bars.
The election was put off for two years after the city clerk determined there weren’t enough signatures. Casper resident and former Councilwoman Kimberly Holloway sued and the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled in her favor in June. After the court weighed in, the City Council looked at the matter again and decided to bring the matter to a vote.
In 2012, the City Council banned indoor smoking in all businesses. In 2013, a new Council amended that ban to allow cigarettes in bars, restaurants, private clubs and nursing homes. Up for referendum are the 2013 amendments.
In deciding the Nov. 3 date, the Council also decided polling places for the election: Roosevelt High School, the Casper Senior Center, Natrona County Fairgrounds Hall of Champions, Casper Shrine Club, Restoration Church and Community Health Center of Central Wyoming. Absentee voting will be at the Natrona County Courthouse.
In the meantime, campaigning for and against smoking in bars has begun.
“Protect your rights, vote ‘for’ November 3rd,” reads a sign outside the Sandbar Lounge, one of about five bars in the city that allows smoking.
Holloway, who wants Casper to be completely smoke-free, said she plans to call voters, including people who signed the petition.
“We’ll use a lot of social media,” she said.