Although the city council in Redmond, Washington has decided to cancel its red light camera contract, the city continues to block the effort to let voters have a say in the decision. In court papers filed Monday, local activists cited election results in the cities of Bellingham, Longview and Monroe to convince King County Judge Laura C. Inveen to reconsider her October 11 ruling that it would be a “useless act” to put an advisory measure on the ballot.
“Under the local initiative process, the city clerk had a clear duty to transmit the petition to the county auditor,” Judge Inveen ruled. “That mandamus will not lie to compel the useless act of transmitting the initiative to the county auditor where the initiative is invalid according to the Court of Appeals’ recent decision, American Traffic Solutions v. Bellingham.”
On September 14, local activists Scott Harlan and Tim Eyman submitted petitions containing 6050 signatures calling for a vote on a red light camera and speed camera ban. Though the number of unverified signatures was more than sufficient, Redmond refused to transmit the petition to the county auditor for validation of the signatures, with Inveen’s approval. Daniel Quick, attorney for the initiative’s sponsors, argued that a refusal to process a petition violates the First Amendment of the US Constitution and Article I of the Washington State Constitution.
“Striking down the initiative at such an early stage infringes on the rights of the Redmond voters that signed petitions with the expectation that their voices would at least be heard,” Quick wrote. “If the initiative is validated, state law requires that the city adopt the initiative or put it on the ballot for a public vote. Regardless of what the city chooses to do with the initiative, the mere process of validation will spur further discussion and further debate on the issue.”
Inveen had cited Bellingham appellate ruling (view ruling) as her authority for calling the Redmond vote useless. However, the appeals court refused to block the vote (modified to an advisory measure) and two-thirds of the city rejected the use of automated ticketing machines.
“Even an initiative that has no legal effect retains political effects, making it a ‘useful,’ not a ‘useless,’ act,” Quick wrote. “The voters in Mukilteo were allowed to vote on ticketing cameras. The voters in Bellingham were allowed to vote on ticketing cameras. The voters in Longview were allowed to vote on ticketing cameras. The voters in Monroe were allowed to vote on ticketing cameras. Every initiative in every other city where sponsors submitted signatures, those signatures were counted and the initiative resulted in a public vote. In none of these cases did a court stop the people from having their signatures counted and having their voices heard.”
Initiative sponsors are worried that the longer signature verification is delayed, the more people who signed the petition will change their address. Beyond a certain point, the measure may not qualify simply because of intentional legal delays.
“This is the first initiative in Redmond’s city history,” Quick wrote. “If the city succeeds in stopping the initiative at such an early stage, it will deter future citizens from exercising their right to initiative, something that is supposedly guaranteed by Redmond’s city charter.”