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Washington: City Sued for Blocking Anti-Camera Referendum
Lawsuit to be filed against Longview, Washington for blocking a valid ballot initiative against the use of photo enforcement.

Josh Sutinen and Mike Wallin
A lawsuit will be filed tomorrow in Longview, Washington seeking to force city officials to abide by the statutory filing requirement for an initiative that would give residents a say in whether or not red light cameras and speed cameras can be used in the community. On May 23, initiative co-sponsors Josh Sutinen and Mike Wallin handed 3628 signatures on a petition for a ballot measure to the city clerk -- exceeding the legally required amount. The city council chose to make up its own procedure.

On Wednesday, the city council voted 4-3 to create an "advisory" vote and throw out the initiative filed by Sutinen, Wallin and the statewide groups Campaign for Liberty, and Sutinen and Wallin's lawsuit explains simply that state law offers the city no such option. The law requires the collection of signatures from fifteen percent of the voters registered during the last general city election, which would be 2677, for a petition to be valid. Once turned in to the city clerk, the clerk within three working days "shall transmit the petition to the county auditor," according to state law.

"As of Wednesday, May 25th, the city clerk did not transfer the petitions to the county auditor for signature verification in the required three day period required by RCW 35.21.005(4)," attorney Shawn Timothy Newman wrote for the petitioners. "The clerk has a clear ministerial duty to act."

Red light camera vendors Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia and American Traffic Solutions have worked hard to shut down and block referendum efforts because voters in fifteen out of fifteen election contests have thrown out automated ticketing machines. Several of Washington's supreme court justices on Tuesday expressed concern that cities may be undercutting the right of initiative enshrined in the state constitution.

"All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed," the Washington state constitution begins. Amendment 8 added: "The authority hereby conferred upon the legislature shall not be construed to grant to the legislature any exclusive power of lawmaking nor in any way limit the initiative and referendum powers reserved by the people."

As of Sunday, Sutinen had raised $2,720 in donations to cover the expense of filing the lawsuit.

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