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Colorado Residents Fight To Save Anti-Camera Referendum
Lawsuit filed in county court to force Sheridan, Colorado to allow a public vote on the use of red light and speed cameras.

Patrick Houston
Residents of Sheridan, Colorado want the public to decide whether or not photo enforcement is used in their community. After being twice denied access to the ballot by city officials, proponents of the referendum decided this time to sue the mayor and city council, accusing them of dirty tricks. .

"We knew we were dealing with people who weren't dealing from the top of the deck," initiative sponsor Paul Houston told TheNewspaper. "Which is why we have to go to an Arapahoe County district court judge to get any justice."

Houston, his son Patrick and the group Ban it Sheridan had collected more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot -- or so they thought. The city clerk cited a number of technicalities in declaring seventy-eight signatures invalid, bringing the petition just four signatures shy of the minimum required. The group double-checked the invalidated signatures and found that many that had been rejected as "illegible" or "not registered" were, in fact, perfectly valid. Houston expects to have affidavits affirming support for the measure from several of the individuals whose signatures were tossed out by the clerk.

The court challenge provides the voter registration numbers for each of the signatures that the clerk claimed were "not registered" in Sheridan. In one example, a man signed his name without using the "junior" suffix used in the registration rolls. The group claims that, since no other person lives at the listed address with that name, the identity of the voter was not in any way ambiguous. In another example, a valid signature was rejected because the signer only listed "Arapahoe County" as the location, even though her address was located in the city.

Houston believes the city denied the signatures hoping that the anti-petition effort would give up, rather than go to the effort of mounting a court challenge. Last year, the clerk refused to accept Houston's anti-camera petition because of a staple-related error. Houston had removed fasteners from the petition so that he could run them through the copy machine at OfficeMax, not realizing this could be used as a technical ground for invalidating the petitions. This time, Houston refuses to back down, even though he believes the city and its vendor, Xerox, will pour all their resources into the challenge.

"Once Sheridan passes this, or the city council adopts it, the floodgates open," Houston said. "Other cities are going to see that it can be done, and that's why I think we might be facing a major confrontation with these folks."

A judge has not yet been assigned to the case.

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