11/21/2019Ohio Town Wants To Burn Votes Cast In Anti-Camera Referendum
East Liverpool, Ohio asks judge to ensure that the votes cast by its residents regarding speed cameras are never counted.
The city of East Liverpool, Ohio, on Monday asked Columbiana County Common Pleas Judge Scott A. Washam to destroy the votes cast by residents on November 5 on the issue of photo enforcement. A citizen-led initiative posed the simple question of whether the city should be prevented from using speed cameras, devices that generate $1 million in annual profit. Just before election day, however, Judge Washam took the unprecedented step of blocking the public from learning the result of their collective choice at the ballot box. Now the city wants the judge to go one step further and ensure the votes never see the light of day.
"This court should and the city asks this court to make such a finding and enjoin the votes on the Citizens' measure from being counted and/or certified by the board of elections," East Liverpool Law Director Charles L. Payne wrote in a filing Monday. "The city asserts that the Citizens' sole remedy at this time is to elect new council members who will repeal Ordinance Number 17, 2017..."
Payne argued that even though the state constitution guarantees that "all political power is inherent in the people," the laws governing the initiative process only give citizens a narrow thirty-day window to decide whether an ordinance adopted by a city council should be repealed. Failure to file a "referendum" within this period means an ordinance passed under normal procedures must remain in effect until a future city council changes its mind.
"While this is true, it glosses over the fact that the Citizens seek to enact a new ordinance," Kevin Daley, lawyer for the citizens, explained. "This ordinance would also repeal the existing ordinance, but it is creating new law."
In particular, that new law created by adopting the anti-camera initiative would prohibit future councils from attempting to install cameras without the prior consent of the people.
"Neither the constitution of Ohio nor the statutes place any definite limitations on the use of the initiative," Daley added. "In adopting the initiative and referendum provisions... of the constitution of Ohio, it was certainly not the intention of the people to leave the voters powerless to override legislation which may be obnoxious to them."
The Columbiana County Board of Elections also wants the votes cast earlier this month to be counted. East Liverpool has an idea of the direction of the votes that have been cast, considering Ohioans in Ashtabula, Cleveland, Chillicothe, Heath, Garfield Heights, Maple Heights, South Euclid and Steubenville have voted to outlaw automated ticketing machines.