Bismarck voters said no to smoking on Tuesday, April 9th, 2011. Voters chose to make all bars smoke-free in a special referendum election. They also rejected allowing smoking huts for bar patrons wishing to puff outside
The ban is expected to take effect next week, after ballots are verified by the Bismarck City Commission. That could be next Tuesday or April 27, said city administrator Bill Wocken. "The commission will decide," he said.
The smoking ban for all bars, truck stops and tobacco shops passed with 5,273 yes votes to 3,554 no votes, said Burleigh County Auditor Kevin Glatt. The measure that allowed smoking huts, but implemented the smoking ban, was rejected 4,482 to 4,285.
Voters opposed paying for the special election with sales tax funding 4,454 to 4,182.
"We are truly excited. It was truly a grassroots effort. We want to thank all the volunteers who helped," said Kimberlee Schneider, spokeswoman for the Smoke Free Bismarck and American Lung Association in Bismarck. She said Bismarck "took a big step toward being a clean city and making sure everyone has the right to breathe clean air."
Supporters of the bar workers who organized the referendum against the ban were disappointed about the new restrictions. Their spokesman, Keith Holzer, thanked the bar workers for stepping up to the plate and the businesses that supported the anti-ban campaign. "This is going to cost jobs, and cost revenue and charitable gaming. ... The citizens got their chance to vote. I hope all those people support those bars when they go smoke-free," Holzer said.
City attorney Charlie Whitman expects the commission will officially receive the ballots at next Tuesday's meeting that begins 5:15 p.m. at the City/County Building. The ban would go into effect April 27 if commissioners validate the ballots.
Glatt said about 8,838 ballots were cast Tuesday. In the June 2010 election when voters elected the city commission, park board and school board, some 11,700 ballots were cast.
Most of the people waited an average of eight to 12 minutes to vote at the VFW Sports Center, Glatt said. "The longest wait was 30 minutes. A lot of that was because people didn't have proper ID. It required more work from the clerks to enter them into the system," he said.
"Between 2:30 and the close of the polls (7 p.m.) we averaged 300 voters per precinct - five a minute. At 7 p.m. all those standing in line were able to vote," he said.
He said the last voter at the VFW Sports Center left at 7:30 p.m.
Witnesses said some frustrated voters turned around at the Bismarck Civic Center site. Some voters reported waiting 45 minutes at the Civic Center.
Glatt was pleased with the trial run of the voting center concept.
"I think it was a very good test of vote centers. It's something we'll sit down and take a look at, things we learned today. I think it was a valuable experiment. We received a lot of positive comments. We received some criticism and we'll use that constructively," Glatt said.
Of the count, there was a healthy level of absentee voters - 1,700 requested and about 1,200 were returned, Glatt said.
Bismarck voters approve smoking ban but no smoke huts