Red Light Cameras on the Ballot?

The group Stop Red Light Cameras turned in more than 30,000 signatures to place a proposed charter amendment on the November ballot to ban the cameras.  Texas Election Code requires all ballot amendments to be decided upon by August 24; however, neither Texas law nor City ordinance set a date to which people would have to submit signatures for them to be verified.

The City Secretary’s office said that the group submitted the signatures yesterday (August 9, 2010) and that there may not be enough time to verify all of the signatures by their deadline.  It took their office three weeks to verify the signature’s for Renew Houston’s ballot amendment, so at the same pace, there might not be enough time.  There are over 30,000 signatures to verify.  That takes more time than many people think, and three weeks is actually really fast to complete a task like that.  They probably need full time employees doing nothing but verification all day every day. 

Stop Red Light Cameras notes that other proposed amendments have been submitted in August and even September and were still allowed to make it to the ballot.  These include authorizing light rail and outlawing benefits to same-sex partners of city employees. 

The Houston Chronicle noted that Andy Taylor, representing Keep Houston Safe (the group in favor of the cameras), said that the referendum is illegal because of an ordinance that requires a petition to vote to repeal a law be turned in within 30 days of when this law is to take effect.  True, but in court, one could argue that the petition is to amend the charter to outlaw red light cameras, which would then render the red light ordinances illegal, rather than an amendment to repeal the law (thereby going around this the ordinance he cites). 

Either way, this is probably going to court.  Perhaps an ordinance setting a final date to submit ballot amendments in the future would be a good idea so no one can accuse the City Secretary’s office of playing politics on either side.

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