The petition fell 350 signatures short of the required 1,705 signatures of registered city voters required to get it on the ballot.
If tentatively approved tomorrow, the measure would have to get final approval at a special council meeting to meet deadline requirements.
The plan is one of two proposals for introducing the ward system that have been put forward in recent weeks. Advocates say election from wards would make council more "accountable" and connect members more to the communities in the city.
The city clerk's office is reviewing the second proposal, a petition submitted with 5,000 signatures last week by a bipartisan grass-roots coalition. However, it is bogged down in red tape and is considered an unlikely bet to be validated in time for the Nov. 3 election.
That proposal calls for an expansion of the current seven-member council to nine seats. Three of those seats would be at-large and the other six would be
The petition hit a snag last week when those leading the bipartisan drive were informed on arrival at the county clerk's office that they had missed the deadline, apparently because of a misunderstanding.
It could, however, be voted on later - assuming that council's measure has not made it moot by that time.
"I can validate signatures, but whether there is ample time to get on the (November) ballot is another question," city clerk John Odorisio said about the bipartisan petition yesterday.
He said the petitioners should have filed their documents earlier.
He said all questions must be presented to acting county clerk Albert J. Mungioti by Sept. 21, not Sept. 24, as petitioners originally believed.
Although his supporters called the snarl a "Catch-22," bipartisan petition leader Jim Harris protested that his group had been tricked.
"We did not miss any deadline," he said at a news conference yesterday. ''We can prove this in court if necessary."
Harris saw council's planned introduction of a proposal identical to the Democratic city committee's as favoritism.
Said Dwaine Williams, one of the coalition petitioners, "I feel it was chicanery."
Harris said that because council was considering an ordinance based on the Democratic committee proposal, it also should introduce the bipartisan proposal.
"Let's have an honest and open debate," he said.
But Council President James Mathes said he could not introduce the coalition's proposal as an ordinance because it was under review by the city clerk.
"Council does not certify petitions," Mathes said.