AUSTIN, Texas - A petition to reinstate the city's camping ban has been ruled invalid. The petition, submitted by the nonprofit Save Austin Now, would have reinstated the ban on homeless camping citywide and restored the sit/lie ordinance to downtown and extended it to the UT campus and surrounding area.
The petition was ruled invalid after signatures were removed during the validation process. According to the City Clerk, there were 19,122 valid signatures on the petition. Save Austin Now told FOX 7 Austin that the petition had more than 24,000 signatures.
In accordance with the City of Austin Charter and state law, the number of signatures required for a sufficient initiative petition is 5% of the qualified voters of the city or 20,000, whichever number is the smaller.
"Upon review of the petition, it was discovered that the petition contained two versions of the language being proposed in the ordinance. A small number of pages had different wording than the main petition, and therefore, 93 pages with the alternate wording and containing 397 signatures were removed from the submitted pages and not included in the number of submitted signatures, the random sample, nor verified," the City Clerk said in a statement. "Upon removal of those pages, the petition comprised of 11,105 pages containing 24,201 signatures."
The City Clerk had also received requests from 60 signers requesting their names be withdrawn from the petition as well as a list from Save Austin Now containing an additional 85 names that were asking to be withdrawn prior to filing the petition.
Some signatures were also disqualified on account of being duplicate signatures of registered voters who signed more than once.
The City Clerk released the following statement, in part:
"The City of Austin has determined that the Camping petition does not meet the requirement for the minimum number of signatures of valid voters if the required minimum is 20,000. 24,201 lines of names were submitted on the petition. A random sample of 6,051 of the submitted lines was checked. 1,147 of the sample lines were disqualified on account of being duplicate signatures of registered voters who signed more than once (41), or for other reasons (1,106). The remaining 4,904 sample lines were validated as bearing signatures of qualified voters.
Furthermore, using the random sample, the City estimates that there are 19,122 valid signatures on the Camping petition. The City is 95% confident that the true number of valid signatures on the entire petition exceeds 18,887 and is also 95% confident that the true number is less than 19,356. Furthermore, the City is virtually certain that the true number of valid signatures is fewer than 20,000."
The co-founders of Save Austin Now, local Democrat Cleo Petricek and local Republican Matt Mackowiak, released a statement as well:
“We do not believe there is any chance whatsoever that we submitted fewer than 20,000 petitions signed by registered voters in the city of Austin. After throwing out hundreds of signed petitions, they are now claiming that a 25% sample found 18.9% invalidity. We believe this is impossible since roughly 75% of our signed petitions came in the mail. We have requested additional information from the clerk’s office and expect to receive it no later than tomorrow morning. We are exploring several options available to us, including possible legal action. This fight is not over. The right to petition the government is a fundamental right. We turned in more than 20% more signed petitions than were required. Based on the information that was provided to us, we believe thousands of signed petitions were inappropriately thrown out.”