PORTLAND -- Supporters of a public vote in Portland on whether fluoride should be added to the city's water said they have gathered over43,000 signatures and turned them in to the elections office a day before the official deadline.

The volunteers with Clean Water Portland need about 20,000 valid signatures for their referendum to make the ballot.

The city council last month unanimously passed an ordinance to add fluoride by March 2014.

It's likely an election on the issue would take place in May of next year.

Dental experts say fluoride is effective in fighting cavities. Opponents of public fluoridation say it's unsafe and violates an individual's right to consent to medication.

Referendum spokeswoman Kim Kaminski said supporters want to wait until the signatures are verified before talking about what comes next.

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