Build a Ballot Petition Campaign against Red-Light Cameras

A number of cities large and small have been successful in ridding their area of red-light cameras and so can you. A ballot initiative to rid your community of red-light cameras once and for all can be successful with a planning and support. But how do you get started?

First of all, to learn more about the arguments against red-light cameras, check out the NMA issue page.

Ballotpedia reports that only 26 states allow statewide initiatives but virtually all states allow local ballot initiatives that are sometimes called veto referendums, bond votes, recalls or legislative referrals.

A ballot initiative is a petitioning process by which citizens propose a law or ordinance and put it to a popular vote. In order to have an initiative placed on a ballot, the citizen or citizen group must circulate a petition and collect a certain number of registered voters’ signatures as prescribed by local or state law.

A citizen referendum or veto referendum is handled in the same way as a ballot initiative except this time, citizens are trying to block laws that have been proposed or already have been approved by local or state government.

Before embarking on any petition campaign for either a ballot initiative or citizen/veto referendum, you must understand all the relevant local and state laws so your hard work does not go to waste.

Planning a Ballot Petition Drive

Planning is the key to conducting a successful ballot petition drive for either an initiative or referendum. Success will depend on following the rules set out by governmental officials with regards to ballot petitions.

Many a petition has been declared invalid because the group did not gather enough qualified signatures or because of some other administrative snafu. Remember, that many officials do not want to see your petition succeed for various reasons. In the case of banning red-light cameras from your community, the city sees this as a revenue stream and would be sore to miss it. They will not be your friend in this process.

Also, remember that camera companies have a vested interest in the outcome of the ballot initiative and have been known to help cities by providing disinformation and sometime putting together their own petition drive to put up a similarly worded but different ballot measure that supports cameras in order to confuse voters at the ballot box.

Here are some questions that need to be answered before you begin your petition campaign in earnest.

1)    How many signatures will you need? Make sure you pad this number at least by 15 to 25 percent so that you don’t get caught in the “not enough qualified signatures” quagmire that can occur with petition campaigns.

2)    Are you required to show your petition form to officials before the petition drive begins (and before all the blank petition forms are copied) to ensure that all of the correct information is on the form? If not, should you show it anyway?

3)    Are all signatures required to be on official group petition forms as described in number 2) above or can there be a different form with the same information? You don’t want any sheet of signatures thrown out due to a technicality.

4)    Does petition certification require the registered voter to give both a signature and a printed name?

5)    Does petition certification require that the registered voter giving the signature needs to include the address and/or ward/precinct for verification purposes? If the ward/precinct information is needed, will the registered voter signing the petition need to give it in his or her handwriting or will petition workers be able to look up the information later and include it onto the petition? If the registered voter needs to write the ward/precinct in their own hand, is there an online website that the petition carrier can access onsite for this purpose?

6)    Does petition certification require any additional information from the registered voter or by the submitter?

7)    Are there any limitations that must be adhered to, or any quotas that must be met (for example, so many signatures per district)?

8)    What is the absolute deadline that petitions need to be turned into officials for verification so that the initiative or referendum can be placed on the next scheduled ballot?

9)    Which department and which individual(s) will be responsible for verifying petition signatures?

10) What happens next if the petition is considered valid? Are there more hoops to jump through such as permission from the mayor or the local city council?

11) What is the recourse if not enough validated signatures were collected? Will the group need to start a new petition drive or can the signatures already gathered be used again as a starting point for a second petition drive?

12) When is the drop dead date for printing the ballot and will your group be allowed to proof read the ballot question before printing?

After you have answered all the questions above, you are now ready to do the final planning before gathering signatures on petitions.

1)    Set a campaign time frame – a beginning and an end with enough time to meet deadlines. Be realistic.

2)    Create materials for the petition. A signature form is copied and a one sheet directive is created and printed for petition carriers. Decide whether or not you want to gather email addresses of those who are signing the petition. This might need to be an extra ask with an additional form created and copied for email addresses.

3)    Identify your target audience and make a list of all the places a petition carrier should go for signatures. If there are any upcoming or ongoing large events (a farmers market for example), ask if you can set up a table or make sure that at least one person can walk the event.

4)    Find and recruit your petition carriers. Hold an informational meeting to explain the petition drive, the dos and don’ts and what will happen if and when enough signatures have been gathered.

5)    Make sure you give out your email address to the petition carriers and get theirs as well.  Put their name and email into your email contacts and put together a group so that you can more easily contact your volunteers on a regular basis. Giving progress updates throughout the campaign sends the message that you care about your volunteers and allows them to see the progress that everyone is working towards.

6)    When the campaign is done and the certification process started, hold a thank you meeting with all the volunteers.

7)    When you hear that the signatures have been verified, make sure to email your volunteers and if you were so inclined to gather email addresses of those who gave signatures, email them too.

8)    If your petition does go on the ballot, a new phase of the campaign begins—awareness. You need voters to vote your way and you do that by building awareness of the ballot measure through media, attending speaking engagements, and the creation and distribution of posters, flyers, and lawn signs.

9)    On the day of the election, write an email to all of the volunteers and supporters thanking them again and encouraging them to get out and vote for the measure.

10) If you’re so inclined, hold a watch party and invite your volunteers and supporters to attend with your core group.

If you need assistance on ridding your city or town of red-light cameras, join the National Motorists Association today to gain access to additional materials provided to members only.

Also, every Tuesday on the NMA blog, check out the Automated Traffic Enforcement or ATE Racket Report. In April 2018, the NMA also started a Facebook Page called the ATE Racket Report to help facilitate local groups and citizens. We hope to start a private Facebook Group soon.


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