LEWISTON — Voters may not see a charter commission to combine the Twin Cities on November's ballot, but Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce President Chip Morrison said he's confident they soon will.
"I think there's enough support in the community," Morrison said. "I think we will see this on the ballot. If we don't see it in November, we will in June."
Morrison is spearheading an effort in both cities to collect signatures and put a consolidation charter commission on the ballot.
His chief goal is to get the measure on November's ballot, and the practical deadline to do that is Monday, July 1.
Lewiston City Clerk Kathy Montejo said she and her staff need to have Morrison's signatures in hand by then in order to make the November ballot.
"Practically, we need to make sure the signatures are valid and we need time to do that," Montejo said.
The effort needs 1,000 signatures from each city. Morrison said he has roughly 600 signatures from Auburn voters and 200 from Lewiston.
"We have 30 gatherers in Lewiston and approximately 20 in Auburn," Morrison said. "We are making headway."
If Morrison and his supporters manage to collect enough signatures, Montejo said she will release nominating petitions for three at-large commission seats on July 8.
"If they give all of the signatures to us to on Friday, there is no way we'd be able to turn them all around and get them all verified by July 8," Montejo said.
Candidates will have until Sept. 8 to collect 50 signatures and get their names on the ballot.
A parallel process would be running in Auburn at the same time. In both cities, voters would elect a commission to draw up a joint Lewiston-Auburn city charter in November — three members from each city.
The charter would have to be submitted to the voters for approval.
But to do that, Morrison said he needs signatures. He's confident his group will do it, even if they don't make Monday's deadline.
"We will get on the ballot eventually — there is no question about that," Morrison said. "It's simply a matter of getting enough time to collect the signatures."
Morrison said the Auburn volunteers' efforts were boosted by June's school referendum. They collected more than 250 signatures on that day alone. Volunteers in Lewiston passed the petitions around Legacy Lewiston Planapalooza this week and the Business to Business Trade Show last week. They'll be out again at Lewiston's Art Walk later this week.
The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, he said.
"People want to sign," Morrison said. "I haven't had anybody say they won't. In fact, I've had several run to get their spouses so they could sign, too. So the question is never whether they will or won't sign. It's getting the petitions in front of enough people."