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Washington Appeals Court Bans Advisory Votes On Traffic Cameras
Appellate court decision in Washington state outlaws advisory votes on use of traffic cameras.

Judge C. Kenneth GrosseWashington state's second highest court supports red light cameras and speed cameras to such a degree that it ruled on Monday that voters are not even entitled to a non-binding ballot question to see whether the public supports a city's policy. The ruling took a step further than a decision handed down last week allowing a city clerk to reject a valid petition, despite a state law mandating it be processed (view decision). The court ruled the very subject matter of photo ticketing is off-limits.

"Section 3 of proposed Initiative No. 1 mandating that any ordinance authorizing the use of automated traffic safety cameras be put to an advisory vote has as its subject matter automated traffic safety cameras," Judge C. Kenneth Grosse wrote in the unpublished opinion. "Accordingly Section 3 of proposed Initiative No. 1 is invalid as beyond the scope of the local initiative power."

In January 2011, the group Seeds of Liberty began circulating a petition to put the issue of camera use on the ballot in Monroe, a city about 30 miles outside of Seattle. Though the initiative petition was valid, city leaders filed a lawsuit against the residents who circulated petitions and refused to put it on the ballot. The vote took place in November, and 68 percent of Monroe voters said no to cameras. In January 2012, Snohomish County Superior Court judge ruled a non-binding advisory vote should be allowed and sanctions imposed on those attempting to block the public process (view ruling). The Court of Appeals vacated that ruling.

Initiative co-sponsor Tim Eyman called the decision "frightening" and said it amounted to outlawing citizens from expressing an opinion. Eyman plans to beat the judges in November with a measure overturning their decision which has already qualified for the statewide ballot.

"We may have lost the battle, but we're winning the war," Eyman told TheNewspaper.

Washington voters will be asked to approve I-517, a measure that deters interference in signature gathering and guarantees a public vote on initiatives that qualify for the ballot, regardless of the initiative's topic.

"Any state or local initiative for which sufficient valid voter signatures are submitted within the time period required must be submitted to a vote of the people at the next election date," Section 4 of I-517 states (view full initiative). "For local initiatives, government officials must, in all circumstances, strictly comply with the requirements of this act for any initiative regardless of its subject matter."

A copy of the decision is available in a 350k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: Monroe v. Seeds of Liberty (Court of Appeals, State of Washington, 2/25/2013)

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