Ohio Judge Suppresses Votes of Election Aiming to Ban Speed Cameras
Imagine exercising your right to vote only to have a cash-hungry judge seal the ballots to prevent a count.
Common Pleas Judge Scott Washam of Columbiana County, Ohio has reportedly sealed votes on a referendum that could possibly ban profitable but unpopular speeding cameras from the town of East Liverpool.
According to The Newspaper, the 2019 election marks the second time that citizens of East Liverpool, Ohio have cast votes on whether to dissolve the city's speeding camera program. The initial campaign in favor of removing the cameras took place in 2017. East Liverpool officials, however, reportedly said that the petition was invalid because it was filed under the wrong law, and took the argument to the Ohio Seventh District Court of Appeals, which ruled in its favor.
Citizens attempted to get a revised, law-abiding version of the petition back on the ballot last year, reports Salem News, but the petition was reportedly submitted too late to make last year's vote, and instead appeared on this year's ballot. Judge Washam, however, has reportedly stepped in to prevent the votes from being counted and instead wishes to first resolve a lawsuit between the city and the Columbiana County Board of Elections. The latter takes no issue with the petition, whereas the former reportedly insists the year-old petition is untimely and wants it retroactively removed from the ballot via a reprint at the cost of $5,000.
"Sadly the votes for our issue have been sealed and won't be released until Judge Washam rules on the lawsuit filed by the city of East Liverpool against us and the Board of Elections," said East Liverpool Citizens Against Traffic Cameras. "This all could have been avoided had city officials simply allowed us to vote, but, regardless, this is the reality of the situation."
The Board's assistant prosecuting attorney Krista Peddicord reportedly pointed out that the city was not authorized to pay to reprint absentee ballots with public funds, and also noted that there is no legal precedent nationwide for a court to nullify votes on speed camera programs once cast.
"It is well settled that, 'provisions for municipal initiative or referendum should be liberally construed in favor of the power reserved so as to permit rather than preclude the exercise of such power, and the object sought to be attained should be promoted rather than prevented or obstructed,'" said Peddicord.
It's unclear how much the city profits from the active speed cams located throughout the town, but it's clearly enough to send local residents through a maze of red tape with the hopes that they give up.