The city of Mukilteo, Washington filed papers Monday hoping to thwart the attempt of a traffic camera company to deny residents the chance to vote on banning automated enforcement. Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Michael T. Downes on Friday will hear arguments in the case filed by an American Traffic Solutions (ATS)-funded front group to protect the company’s ticketing contract from the fate such agreements have shared in all ten cities where the public has forced a vote to toss out the cameras. The sponsors of Mukilteo’s initiative — Nicholas Sherwood, Alex Rion and Tim Eyman — filed a more comprehensive legal brief as intervenors tearing apart the ATS-backed case.
“A lawsuit to strike an initiative or referendum from a ballot is one of the deadliest weapons in the arsenal of the measure’s political opponents,” James D. Gordon III and David B. Magleby wrote in a Notre Dame Law Review article cited by the initiative’s sponsors. “With increasing frequency, opponents of ballot proposals are finding the weapon irresistible and are suing to stop elections.”
Nearly half of Mukilteo’s active, registered voters signed the petition calling for a November 2 vote (view initiative), but the ATS-backed suit argued that it would be “inefficient and a waste of resources” to put a measure on the ballot when the state legislature has already adopted a law allowing cities to install cameras. In a brief on behalf of the city, attorney Angela S. Belbeck argued that the legislature granted broad powers to cities to submit issues to the judgment of voters.
“Plaintiff cannot meet its burden of proving the elements for injunctive relief because it has no right to prevent the city council from exercising the city council’s right to forward an issue to the electorate,” Belbeck wrote. “The right to place Initiative No. 2 on the ballot belongs to the city council.”
The initiative sponsors provided a fuller history of Washington state case law indicating that courts should not interfere with the electoral process by ruling on the validity of a referendum before a vote takes place. They also argued that the ATS-backed group has no standing to sue because the individual who filed has suffered no harm. Given the long history of the use of propositions placed before voters in the state, initiative co-sponsor Eyman believes the case will be settled quickly.
“It’ll take a very kooky judge to rule against letting the voters vote,” Eyman wrote in an email to reporters. “And it doesn’t seem like this guy’s kooky at all.”
A copy of the intervenor’s brief is available in an 80k PDF file at the source link below.
Source: Intervenor Opposition to Motion for Declaratory Judgment (Before the Snohomish County Superior Court, 8/2/2010)