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If Dallas passed paid sick leave, this young woman could stay home from work.EXPAND
If Dallas passed paid sick leave, this young woman could stay home from work.

Sick Time Proponents Threaten to Sue City Secretary Over Signature Count

The workers-rights groups behind the push for paid sick leave in Dallas still believe that they turned in more than enough valid signatures to get their cause on Dallas' November ballot. If Dallas City Secretary Billirae Johnson doesn't recount 32,000 signatures deemed previously invalid, the advocates will consider suing Johnson and the city, the Texas Civil Rights Project said Tuesday.

After the first count of the 119,270 signatures turned in to support comprehensive sick leave — any person working in Dallas would, were the proposal to become law, get one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours he or she works — Johnson determined July 11 that 51,797 petitioners' signatures were invalid. That left sick leave about 1,900 signatures short of the 53,756 required registered Dallas voters to get on the ballot.

Over the next four days, Johnson re-examined about 36,000 signatures that had been thrown out, according to the Texas Civil Rights Project, finding about 1,100 signatures that should've survived the initial count. The group wants the city secretary's office to examine the 32,000 rejected signatures that weren't re-evaluated during the first recount.

"Last month, over 120,000 people made clear that Dallas working families should have the right to earn paid sick time," said Jose P. Garza, executive director of the Worker's Defense Project. "With a razor-thin margin, it is incumbent that the city of Dallas provide an extensive review to ensure Dallas voters are recognized and counted."

Johnson told the Observer on Tuesday that she'd received the letter from the Texas Civil Right's Project but declined to comment on its demands.

"I'll respond with a letter to them," Johnson said.

If Johnson declines to recount the signatures, the groups pushing for the vote will likely sue, seeking a court order forcing the city to re-evaluate the signatures that weren't looked at a second time.

Even if the effort eventually fails, either in the courts or after the recount, sick leave in Dallas isn't dead. The Dallas City Council could still consider the ordinance on its own, mirroring the process that saw Austin pass universal sick leave this spring.

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