Voters in at least seven cities will soon have a chance to decide whether to prohibit the use of red light cameras and speed cameras. Initiatives are being certified for the ballot in five states across the country, despite an all-out effort by photo ticketing firms to block any public role in the matter. Early voting is already underway in Albuquerque, New Mexico for the October 4 municipal election.
“Shall the Albuquerque city council continue authorizing the ‘Safe Traffic Operations Program,’ commonly called the ‘red light camera program’?” the city ballot asks.
Albuquerque’s non-binding advisory vote was placed on the ballot by a 5-4 vote of the city council. Officials in Westminster, California unanimously agreed in July to ask voters to decide on a binding red light camera ban on the November 2012 ballot. Everywhere else, the ballot measures were accepted with great reluctance.
“Under duress I’m going to vote yes,” South Euclid, Ohio Councilman Moe Romeo said in moving to place a camera ban on the November 2011 ballot.
During the August 22 city council meeting in the Cleveland suburb, Councilman Jane Goodman argued that the city should ignore the petition submitted by voters demanding a say on the use of red light cameras and speed cameras. City Law Director Michael P. Lograsso said the council had no choice in the matter.
“Based on my research, my recommendation to the clerk is that the petitioners have satisfied all procedural and constitutional requirements and you should send this measure to the board of elections,” Lograsso said. “They have the ability under the charter and the constitution to put this forward. They did it correctly. I don’t know what else to tell you. This amendment was put forth I think you have a duty to send it on to the board of elections… On a charter amendment the case law is very clear from the Ohio Supreme Court that it’s the Ohio constitution that takes precedence over our city charter on this issue. So it’s ten percent of the people voting in the last general election.”
The final vote was 6-1 with Council President David Miller adding he was also allowing the public to vote “under duress.” In East Cleveland, the city council voted on August 30 to allow the referendum on cameras to be placed on the ballot. On August 29, the city council in Dayton, Texas decided to ask voters to vote on red light cameras before entering into a contract with American Traffic Solutions to start an automated ticketing program.
Washington state ballot measures have seen the most fierce opposition. Voters will not have a say in the city of Monroe after Mayor Robert Zimmerman filed a lawsuit that postponed legal consideration of the measure until after the ballots would be printed. Instead, Zimmerman placed his own ambiguous measure on the ballot where either a yes or a no vote could be construed as backing the camera program. The lawsuit filed in Bellingham by American Traffic Solutions resulted in a judgeimposing a $10,000 fine for violating state statutes designed to guarantee public access to the ballot. As a result, the city’s voters will vote on the measure as written. In Longview, a judge ruled that voters would only be allowed to vote on whether to hold an advisory vote on cameras at the next election.
Initiative votes remain pending in a number of other jurisdictions. No photo enforcement program has ever survived a public vote.