10/18/2013Washington: Activist Predicts Initiative Will End Red Light Cameras
Initiative cruising to passage in Washington state could spell trouble for photo enforcement industry.
Voters are poised to make life difficult for photo ticketing companies in Washington state. On November 5, Initiative 517, the Protect the Initiative Act, will appear on the ballot. The measure is designed to overturn a 2012 state Supreme Court ruling that gave photo enforcement companies the right to tell the public that they had no say in whether red light cameras and speed cameras could be used in their communities (view ruling). The latest Elway Poll of registered voters conducted last month shows I-517 "cruising toward victory" statewide with a 36 point lead.
"The out of state red light camera companies thought the Supreme Court immunized them to any opposition, and Initiative 517 says we're just getting started," I-517 co-sponsor Tim Eyman told TheNewspaper. "I predict in the next two years, Washington will not have any red light cameras or speed cameras in any jurisdiction in the state."
The initiative was inspired by the traffic camera issue, but its provisions apply to any political topic. It gives signature collectors more time to satisfy the ballot access requirements and increases penalties for assaulting signature collectors. The polling shows strong support across the political spectrum, with the greatest support, 77 percent, coming from voters under the age of 35.
"If voters want to qualify an initiative for the ballot, they ought to be able to vote on it," Eyman said. "They shouldn't be sued by an out-of-state, for-profit camera corporation that's afraid to allow the people to speak because they know the people are going to reject their product."
Despite the legal battles, Eyman teamed up with local activists who were successful in putting the issue on the ballot in several towns. Residents in Bellingham, Longview, Monroe and Mukilteo have voted by as much as 71 percent to outlaw the use of automated ticketing machines. Passage of I-517 would allow much more public input on the issue of automated ticketing.
"We had to slog through these cities," Eyman said. "If we just have a fair chance where nobody can be harassed, you have enough time to collect signatures and you're guaranteed a vote, that just greases the skids for local initiatives. Let's go after Lynnwood, let's go after Seattle, let's go after Bellevue. We've kinda done these small cities and flushed out the opposition."
Though Eyman could file a statewide initiative to ban traffic cameras outright, he prefers the local approach as it creates a headache for the photo enforcement industry.
"It's so much more fun to rip these guys apart on a city-by-city basis," Eyman said. "It tortures them. It's also going to put on hold a lot of cities that are thinking about installing cameras."