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Louisiana: Public Slams Traffic Cameras in Referendum
More than 85 percent of Sulphur, Louisiana residents vote to reject photo enforcement in a special election.

Vote photo by worlds saddest man/Flickr
In a special election yesterday, a Southern Louisiana city of 22,000 overwhelmingly rejected photo enforcement. Asked, "Shall Ordinance No. 873, M-C Series adopting automated speed enforcement for the City of Sulphur, Louisiana, be repealed?" eighty-six percent of voters said "Yes." After results are certified on April 13, the Australian speed camera vendor Redflex Traffic Systems will be sent packing.

Sulphur's ballot box totals contrast sharply with public opinion survey results published by traffic camera vendor American Traffic Solutions (ATS). A review of ATS contracting arrangements with municipalities showed that ATS-sponsored polling is regularly offered as part of a suite of marketing services intended to promote the sale of automated ticketing machines. In a March 17 press release, for example, ATS insisted that camera opponents were the minority.

"A recent survey shows two-thirds of Missourians support police photo traffic enforcement using red-light cameras -- but that many of those supportive Missourians mistakenly assume the technology is not favored by most of their neighbors," the ATS release stated. "By a remarkable 66 percent to 30 percent margin, voters supported red light cameras."

In January, ATS hired Public Opinion Strategies to generate a similar survey showing 63 percent of Arizona voters supported speed cameras. Although traffic cameras frequently enjoy enthusiastic support in public opinion research sponsored by the industry, photo enforcement has never succeeded with voters on election day.

Real voters in Cincinnati, Ohio rejected red light cameras last November. Seventy-six percent of Steubenville, Ohio residents rejected photo radar in 2006. In less recent votes, speed cameras lost by a two-to-one margin in Peoria, Arizona and Batavia, Illinois. Anchorage, Alaska also rejected a photo radar program in 1997.

The next referendum on automated ticketing is set for Chillicothe, Ohio where enthusiastic residents succeeded in gathering more than double the amount of signatures required to qualify for the ballot. Additional votes are possible as the group is currently working to put photo enforcement up for a statewide vote in Arizona and the Coalition Opposed to Spending and Taxes is working on a petition in Toledo, Ohio.

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