Chillicothe Red-Light and Speed Camera Referendum, 2009

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Chillicothe Red-Light and Speed Camera Referendum will be on the November 3, 2009 ballot in Ross County for voters in the City of Chillicothe. The referendum proposes prohibiting the use of both red-light and speed cameras within the city.[1]

On September 2, 2009 the Ross County Board of Elections ruled to keep the ballot measure on the November ballot, after the City of Cincinnati filed a protest against the ballot language. City officials argued that the language was "misleading" and "unconstitutional." James Mann, assistant law director, argued that the ordinance would not only affect the automated system but also the radar and speed enforcement used by officers on their patrols. However, Citizens Against Photo Enforcement (CAPE) say that Mann's argument is false. CAPE's ordinance, as currently proposed, only affects automated red-light and speed cameras, not those used by an officer. In addition to the ruling, the board noted, "Access to the ballot ... is one of the most fundamental rights an American can enjoy."[2]

Background

In November 2008 local residents and members of CAPE filed a lawsuit against the city's camera provider, Redflex Inc., requesting that camera enforcement be suspended. Soon after, in December, a temporary restraining order was issued requiring the city to suspend use of camera enforcement. However, the lawsuit was withdrawn in March 2009 after the suspension was lifted. The Chillicothe Red-Light and Speed Camera Referendum was proposed shortly thereafter.[3]

Controversy

A speed camera

Assistant Law Director James Mann filed a protest on behalf of the city alleging that parts of the petition for referendum violates state law. According to the complaint, the Ohio and U.S. Constitution were violated as well, stating that the referendum language is confusing and misleading to voters.

The protest goes into detail stating that the referendum is broad and takes away power from police officers who patrol roads and watch for people who run red lights. Legal powers would also be taken away from council members, according to the protest.

Despite the claims from the city, C.A.P.E President Rebekah Valentich has taken a strong stance opposing the city’s protest, stating her organization would hire an attorney to keep the measure alive.[4]

Appeal to Ohio Supreme Court

In a move to take the issue to a higher court, Mann asked the city board of elections to conduct a quasi-judicial hearing on the issue and asked the Ohio Supreme Court to make a ruling on if the measure should be taken off the November ballot. On September 2, the city board of elections voted unanimously to keep the measure on the ballot, saying that while they may not agree with it, they still believe the voters should have the choice. Mann is hoping the issue will move quickly through the court so that there is a ruling before the election.[5]

Supreme Court ruling

In an October 21, 2009 ruling, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the referendum will appear on the November ballot. Earlier Chillicothe Mayor Sulzer asked the supreme court to review the case and approve an injunction on the referendum. Sulzer argued that the initiative was unconstitutional and that the city was denied the chance to argue their case.

However, on Wednesday, October 21, the justices ruled that,"Chillicothe failed to act with the requisite diligence in asserting its claim for extraordinary relief in mandamus and prohibition. Instead, the city delayed filing its protest until 119 days after the signed initiative petition was filed with the city auditor and 56 days after the city auditor certified the initiative petition to the board of elections. Chillicothe delayed an additional 26 days after the board denied its protest and certified the initiative to the election ballot to file this action for extraordinary relief."[6]

See also

References