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Sweetwater, Florida Residents Vote Down Red Light Cameras
Voters in Sweetwater, Florida use the ballot box to reject the use of red light cameras by a vote of 81 to 19 percent.

Sweetwater, Florida election machines
Voters in Sweetwater, Florida, decided on Tuesday to outlaw the use of red light cameras. By a vote of 81 to 19 percent, residents adopted an amendment to the city charter that prohibits the mayor from continuing the use of automated ticketing machines, joining thirty-nine other cities around the nation that have rejected photo enforcement by referendum (view list).

"I wanted to put this item forward to give residents the opportunity to be the umpire here," city Commissioner David Borrero said on introducing the ballot measure. "I've received a lot of complaints... It's a really large burden on residents."

Borrero scored a unanimous vote for his plan to send the question to the public. Even though Commission President Joniel Diaz supported automated ticketing, he had no problem putting the choice in the hands of voters. Commissioner Marcos Villanueva, an opponent of cameras, endorsed the referendum but would have preferred the commission members ban cameras outright.

"I am completely against red light cameras," Villanueva said. "As a former policeman, I think red light cameras suck. It has got to the point where we're ticketing people making a right turn at three miles per hour -- a police officer is not going to stop you for going three miles per hour."

Sweetwater had entered into a deal with American Traffic Solutions (now Verra Mobility) granting the for-profit Arizona firm the right to issue tickets at four of the city's intersections. Verra Mobility issued 35,576 tickets worth $5,621,008 last year. Ninety percent of those tickets were issued to people making slow, right-hand turns, usually as they were entering the Dolphin Mall, where the most prolific camera is located.

Commissioners were uncertain when the cameras might come down. The ballot language was crafted so that the city would not incur any early contract termination penalties.

"Shall the charter be amended to prohibit the mayor's authority to extend, renew or enter into any and all red light camera contracts after expiration of the city's existing red light camera contract?" the referendum measure asked.

This is the first time Florida voters have been asked to weigh in on photo enforcement. Residents of Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas and Washington have been asked to cast ballots on the use of automated ticketing machines in 42 electoral contests. Camera advocates have only won three of those elections.

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