City clerk rejects effort to put Austin camping ban on November ballot

Save Austin Now disputes results, says thousands of signatures "inappropriately thrown out"

Talk 1370 Newsroom
August 05, 2020 - 6:12 pm

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AUSTIN (Talk1370.com) -- A petition effort to have voters decide on whether to reinstate Austin's public camping ban has been rejected by the City of Austin, after a statistical analysis of the petition indicated the effort did not collect enough valid signatures.

Save Austin Now delivered the petition to the City Clerk's office on July 20, with 24,598 signatures - above the 20,000 threshold required for the petition to be considered valid.

According to a memo, the Clerk's office received requests from 60 individuals requesting to have their names removed, and Save Austin Now provided an additional 85 requests that they had received. 96 of those requests were located on the petition and were not counted. The report from City Clerk Jannette Goodall also indicated 93 pages of the petition containing a total of 397 signatures had different wording for the proposed ordinance, invalidating those signatures. That left a raw total of 24,201 signatures intact on the petition.

A random sampling method was then used to verify signatures on the petition, looking at a sample size of 6,051 signatures. Of those 6,051 signatures, 41 were invalidated for signing the petition twice, and 1,106 were removed for "other reasons". Based on that analysis, the Clerk's office estimates the petition only has 19,122 valid signatures and is "virtually certain" the total is under the 20,000 threshold.

"The city is 95% confident that the true number of valid signatures on the entire petition exceeds 18,887, and is also confident that the true number is less than 19,356," the memo said. "The probability that checking all 24,201 submitted signatures would find a total of at least 20,000 valid signatures is less than three in 1 billion."

Save Austin Now co-founders Matt Mackowiak and Cleo Petricek disputed the Clerk's analysis in a statement. "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," the statement said. "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 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."

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