As the battle over non-discrimination ordinances bounces across the state, all eyes must take a moment to focus on the city of Plano. In what some have called a bold move, the city has thrown out the entirety of a petition against the Plano Equal Rights Ordinance. Here’s the information directly from city press release…
The City of Plano has determined that a recently circulated Equal Rights petition is invalid and will not move forward. Plano’s City Secretary was unable to certify the petition because it failed to meet State and local requirements for validation.
The petition contained false information regarding the Equal Rights Ordinance, claiming it regulates bathrooms. The ordinance does not regulate bathrooms. By making this false representation, the Equal Rights petition asked signees to repeal an ordinance that does not exist.
Texas Election Code requires petitions submitted in cities located in two counties to include a column for the signee’s county of voter registration. Since Plano is in two counties, that column was mandatory. However, none of the petition pages included it.
Plano officials even sent an email to petitioners during the collection period stating that such issues would be examined once the petitions were turned in.
As expected, the decision received swift rebuke from the petitioners, as Wendy Hundley of the Dallas Morning News reports…
“While we are shocked that the city has so little regard for its citizens, we remain committed to advancing religious liberty and challenging this ordinance that clearly violates laws protecting religious freedom,” said Jeff Mateer, general counsel for the Liberty Institute, a Plano-based nonprofit organization that defends religious liberty.
“It’s clear that Plano City Council has no interest in listening to the people,” Jonathan Saenz of Texas Values Action said in an email. “There is no question that enough signatures were submitted and the City Council does not want to be accountable to the people. These arrogant government officials have not heard the last from the people and the real voice of Plano.”
Both organizations supported the group that launched the petition drive, Plano Citizens United, and served as the group’s mouthpiece.
Despite their anger, the city of Plano has a strong case by which to invalidate the petitions. Their actions could even have implications for the legal drama surrounding Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance.
In particular, the issue that Plano brings up about counties could also apply to the Houston case. Per Chapter 277 of the Texas Election Code, any successful petition effort must contain the following information from signees…
Sec. 277.002. VALIDITY OF PETITION SIGNATURES. (a) For a petition signature to be valid, a petition must:
(1) contain in addition to the signature:
(A) the signer’s printed name;
(B) the signer’s:
(i) date of birth; or
(ii) voter registration number and, if the territory from which signatures must be obtained is situated in more than one county, the county of registration;
(C) the signer’s residence address; and
(D) the date of signing; and
(2) comply with any other applicable requirements prescribed by law.
(b) The signature is the only information that is required to appear on the petition in the signer’s own handwriting.
(c) The use of ditto marks or abbreviations does not invalidate a signature if the required information is reasonably ascertainable.
(d) The omission of the state from the signer’s residence address does not invalidate a signature unless the political subdivision from which the signature is obtained is situated in more than one state. The omission of the zip code from the address does not invalidate a signature.
One quick examination of the Houston petition reveals that it is missing some critical information from letter B. Petitioners did not ask for the signee’s date of birth, instead opting for the voter registration number. That’s fine to do, but when choosing the registration number option, they were also supposed to create a column for the voter’s county of residence because the city of Houston resides in 3 counties. Here’s one page of the Houston petition showing that this was not properly done…
Though petition information is public record, Texas Leftist has chosen not to publish the names of signees or of the petition collector.
So it’s possible that even Houston could have taken the initial position of invalidating all signatures for this fact alone. Of course in taking such a path, the city may have opened itself up to scrutiny of previous petitions that have been accepted without all of the proper information, yet were honored on good faith effort. As Houston awaits a final count of valid signatures, it will be interesting to see if any elements brought forth in the Plano situation affect the fate of HERO.