From Arizona to Maryland, Citizens Use Ballot to Fight Speed & Red Light Cameras

Mon, Jan 4 2010 by Anonymous

People around the country have been fighting against speed and red light cameras ever since they started dotting intersections and roadsides in the 1990’s. In many states this policy debate is moving to the ballot, where initiative and referendum rights are able to give voters a voice on an issue that is often decided by unelected law enforcement and highway officials.

Speed CameraAs I write, residents of Baytown, TX are waiting to hear if a petition to ban cameras in the town will make it to the ballot. Last November saw over 70% of voters in the Ohio town of Chillicothe vote to ban automated traffic enforcement.  A drive to put speed cameras on the ballot is gaining steam in Arizona, even as the state’s system is failing due to widespread protest and public refusal to pay fines.  Finally, an effort to hold a referendum on Maryland’s camera scheme recently failed, but the failure was more a testament to Maryland’s draconian referendum laws than the viability of the issue.

These are only a handful of the instances of cameras being taken to the ballot.

While law enforcement, government officials, and the companies that make the devices love the cameras - and the large amounts of money they can bring in - they are very unpopular among the public. Supporters argue that the cameras are necessary for safety, but as the Los Angeles Times recently reported, often accidents increase when cameras are installed, and government revenue - not public safety - is usually the driving force behind installing cameras.

All of this underscores the need to protect our rights at the ballot, because nowhere are ballot initiative and referendum rights more important than on issues where the public is greatly at odds with elected, and unelected, officials.