Sep 12, 2023 - News

Atlanta waiting on court guidance before verifying petition signatures

Photo: Cheney Orr/AFP via Getty Images

The process to start verifying signatures collected to force a referendum on Atlanta's Public Safety Training Center hit another snag.

Driving the news: The Vote to Stop Cop City Coalition gathered at City Hall Monday to turn in their signatures, but the group was told by the city that it's waiting on guidance from the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

State of play: Robbie Ashe III, the attorney representing the city, said Monday in a virtual press conference that a Sept. 1 order by the three-judge panel, which halted a federal judge's ruling that allowed more time to collect signatures, stops the current verification process.

  • That means the city is currently operating under state and local laws that require petitions be turned in no later than 60 days from which they began, Ashe told reporters.
  • The municipal clerk approved the petition language on June 21, so the deadline to submit the petition would have been Aug. 21.

What they're saying: Ashe also said the city offered to take in the petitions and store them in a secure location in the municipal clerk's office while they wait on the ruling.

  • "The other thing we've offered to do is to have them scanned so that the petitioners can have a copy of them so that we can all be on the same page about what was submitted," Ashe said.

The other side: The coalition, which originally wanted to get the referendum on the ballot in November, said the delay is a "disgraceful push by the city to stonewall democracy."

  • The organization said it told the city on Thursday of its plans to turn in the petition, but Atlanta officials did not respond until yesterday's press conference.
  • "Shame on the city for playing games with the sweat, hard work, and demands of 116,000 of their constituents," the coalition said, citing how many people they said signed the petition.

Yes, and: Council member Liliana Bakhtiari said Monday in a statement that she was "deeply disturbed over lack of transparency and procedural barriers that have marred the public's ability to petition their government for redress."

  • "Regardless of where you stand on the issue, this ballot referendum will provide every Atlanta voter the opportunity to make their voice heard," she said. "I also believe that this is a much-needed step in trying to build back community trust, and that is a win for all of Atlanta."

What we're watching: Ashe said the city has filed its brief before the 11th Circuit panel, and the attorneys for the other side are expected to submit their petition this week.

  • Once filed, Ashe told reporters the city of Atlanta will have until Oct. 4 to respond.

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