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Court: Citizens don’t get to vote on red light cameras

The Washington State Supreme Court has ruled that citizens cannot file initiatives to vote on red light cameras.

In a 5-4 opinion, the Washington Supreme Court ruled the Legislature granted the authority to install these cameras to local jurisdictions, and that they are not able to be voted on by the public.

Anti-red light camera activist Tim Eyman said it’s strange that the high court would restrict voters’ rights.

“There are certain topics you children, the voters, aren’t qualified to make votes on,” Eyman said. “I think that’s just maddening.”

The lawsuit comes from Mukilteo where an initiative made the ballot and nearly 71 percent of people voted to remove the red light cameras, and the cameras came down.

Even though the high court said it was worded as a binding initiative, the city council treated the results as advisory and then did away with the cameras Mukilteo already had.

Eyman has since expanded his anti-red-light-camera campaign to other cities, calling the cameras “taxation by citation.” In several other cities that have done away with the cameras, including Bellingham and Longview, votes have been advisory, not binding _ and thus would not have been prohibited under Thursday’s ruling.

“We may have lost this battle, but we’re winning the war,” Eyman said. “The advisory votes seem to have as much political impact as binding votes do, and voters are just overwhelmingly on our side.”

The four justices in the minority said the vote in Mukilteo was advisory, so there was no reason to rule on whether red-light-camera ordinances are subject to local initiatives.

“The city council has repealed the ordinance allowing the use of red-light cameras in Mukilteo,” Justice Jim Johnson wrote. “The matter was appropriately and constitutionally resolved through the political process.”

The Associated Press has contributed to this report.

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