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Lawsuit filed to stop red light camera referendum

And now the fun really begins.

A federal lawsuit was filed Friday afternoon in an effort to prevent Houston residents from voting on whether to ban red-light cameras.

Multiple sources told KPRC Local 2 that the lawsuit was filed on behalf of a Houston resident and Keep Houston Safe, a political action committee.

The suit seeks to block the proposed charter amendment from being placed on November’s ballot on the grounds that it violates the city charter and would dilute minority voting strength, in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1965.

Mary Benton had the early scoop on this. If you’re wondering what the Civil Rights Act of 1965 has to do with this, the short answer is “preclearance”. I quote from the lawsuit:

14. Chapter 9 of the Texas Local Government Code, governing the procedures for amending a city’s charter, has been amended by the Texas Legislature multiple times since the adoption of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Multiple preclearance submissions were submitted by the State addressing legislative amendments, including changes to the number of signatures required to place a matter on the ballot; changes in the uniform date for charter amendment elections; and validating statutes for previous charter amendments. Most notably, what has not been precleared is the use of a charter amendment petition to circumvent or otherwise bypass express limitations or prohibitions adopted by voters and incorporated into a home-rule municipality’s city charter.

15. By accepting the Petition as a charter amendment petition, rather than the appropriate designation as a Referendum petition, Defendant has instituted a change in election-related policies and procedures that must be pre-cleared in accordance with S5 of the Voting Rights Act.

16. Because the Camouflaged Referendum has been improperly placed on the ballot, a potential for racial discrimination exists. More specifically, minority voters may lose their ability to ability to elect candidates of their choice in local, statewide, and federal elected offices.

You had me till that last sentence, but I suppose that’s the way VRA claims go. It’s just that seeing Andy Taylor – Andy Taylor! – give these arguments is fixing to make my head explode. Anyway, the suit asks for a three-judge panel, and all deliberate speed and so on. We’ll see what happens.

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12 Comments

  1. They also sued Baytown over placing it on the ballot. But I guess they don’t expect Baytown to get as much news coverage as they didn’t try to hide behind the fake PAC that the camera company set up like they did for Houston. The Baytown Lawsuit is actually titled American Traffic Solutions V City of Baytown. They didn’t even try to hide who was behind it. The suits were almost verbatim. They expanded further by theorizing that conservatives are more against the cameras and putting it on the ballot will encourage more conservative voters to turn out and it will dilute the minority vote. So it isn’t about saving their contract, it is about Andy Taylor and an Arizona based Goldmann Sachs owned corporation just wanting to make sure minority voters in Houston and Baytown get a fair shake this November, LOL! I can’t stop laughing as I write this.

  2. Jim B says:

    The filing of this lawsuit should tell voters what this controversy is really about: MONEY. Like there was any doubt. Minority voting rights my eye.

    Mayor Parker was on the local news this week complaining about how the State of Texas’ share of the red light revenue is not being sent to hospitals as set forth in the law. She even used the term “bait & switch” to describe state officials conduct. I thought this was all about safety, not the money.

    Photo enforcement cameras have never survived a public vote and come November they’ll be banned in Houston (and Baytown) too.

  3. Ron in Houston says:

    What total unmitigated BS. Voting on red light cameras relates to racial discrimination?

    I hope the thing stays on the ballot. I’m curious to see what happens.

  4. […] word in the Chron yet about the lawsuit that was filed Friday to stop the red light camera referendum. A similar lawsuit, with very similar arguments, was filed […]

  5. Craig says:

    Andy Taylor was the same Republican attorney that was accused of intimidating people who had voted for a minority candidate, and now he has the AUDACITY to claim that something might dilute minority voting strength??

    Andy Taylor, the same Andy Taylor that represented the group trying to eliminate same-sex benefits for City of Houston workers is making this argument?

    And this is supposed to be in good faith???

    As a Democrat, that just makes me mad.

    And just FYI, the City Attorney said at City Council the other day that the City always sends all ballot measures to be precleared by the DOJ at least 60 days before the election, so the preclearance argument is likely dead on arrival. Unlike the petitions, which Andy Taylor claimed were DOA.

    Just let the people vote, what’s so hard about that?

    I think they know the real score – people hate red light cameras. An August 12 poll by Channel 26 showed that 83% of people were against red light cameras. An August 26 poll by Channel 39 showed that 74% of people though “red light cameras were not worth the cost.”

    It’s not an accident that the camera company is desperate to win in the courtroom – they’ve never won an election anywhere in the United States.

  6. Still no coverage by the chronicle on the two lawsuits that I have found, this represents very poor journalism IMO, they obviouly don’t want to cover it because they know it will turn people against the cameras in the election. Thanks for pointing that out Charles, any way you can ask them why they haven’t covered it? You have the connections.

  7. ATS already lost their request for a TRO, another hearing may be set soon.
    http://baytownsun.com/news/article_936ed44e-bbb6-11df-b319-001cc4c03286.html

    Brumback said, “their charge is that we did not get pre-clearance for a change in existing — what they’re considering to be — referendum language. We’ve already argued this before and won, and we won again last week.

    “We don’t believe it is referendum language — we in fact believe it’s an initiative, and have certified the petition as such, so on its face we reject the charge.

    “But secondly we have, in fact, filed, just as a precautionary measure, a pre-clearance request to the Department of Justice ensuring that what we think is true is true.

    “We don’t believe it’s a referendum, but in the event that somewhere along the line ATS does convince a judge — and they’ve failed now twice — that it is, we also want to have a pre-clearance request on the books.”
    ……………….

    Ignacio Ramirez, Baytown city attorney, said ATS also tried to get a restraining order against the city to prevent certification of the election, also based on the claim the initiative election was really a referendum. That restraining order was not granted.

    Ramirez said ATS tried again Thursday to get a temporary restraining order to block the city from moving forward on the election. He said he was notified of the effort by e-mail, and was not informed in time to go to the courthouse and defend against the restraining order. Instead, he said, he participated in the hearing by telephone conference call.

    The judge rejected the temporary restraining order, but is expected to hold a future hearing on an injunction against the city, Ramirez said. That hearing could be as early as Friday, he said.

  8. Wow, even the Palm Beach press is covering the suits, tick tock chronicle, tick tock
    http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/cerabino-traffic-camera-firm-stops-at-nothing-says-902093.html

  9. […] Benton had the scoop on this last week. The point about whether the referendum is illegal according to the city charter has been discussed […]

  10. bob says:

    this is crap – i drive 25 mph through red light camera cities and never NEVER NEVER turn right on red. I am retired and have time to do this so live with it and you red light crap.
    I hope you all sit behind me on red in the right hand turn lane.

  11. […] was litigation filed before the election to prevent the referendum from being on the ballot, as well as questions […]