Dallas residents, it turns out, will not be voting on paid sick leave in November. Despite finishing a petition drive with over 119,000 signatures — more than twice what's been required to get a sick leave ordinance on the mid-term ballot — advocates for the policy couldn't survive a review from the Dallas City Secretary's Office.
Dallas City Secretary Billirae Johnson said Monday afternoon that she and her team determined that only 52,885 of the submitted signatures came from registered Dallas voters. That leaves the petitioners 880 valid signatures short of the 53,765 required to have an item placed on the ballot.
"The largest two categories of rejected signatures were those signatures that we could not determine came from registered voters and those that came from signers who weren't registered to vote in the city of Dallas," Johnson says.
Many of the voters whose signatures were submitted on the petition lived in Dallas County suburbs, including Cedar Hill, DeSoto and Irving, Johnson said.
Only names, birthdates and signatures were required on the petition. City Secretary's Office employees checked each of the signatures by hand, comparing them with voter registration databases in order to determine whether each signer had voting rights in Dallas.
Sam Robles, the spokeswoman for Working Texans for Paid Sick Time, said Monday that her organization is worried about the way the signature check was carried out and is considering its options.
"We have some concerns about how the validation process was conducted. We spoke to the city secretary this morning and have requested additional information for review," Robles said. "The city of Dallas ignores these voices to the detriment of Dallas families, local businesses and our economy. We are considering all available options, including legal action, to ensure the voices of working people in Dallas are heard."
Barring a successful challenge to Johnson's rejection of the petition, Dallas will likely avoid a legal fight with the state over the sick leave policy, which would've guaranteed workers one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked for an employer in Dallas.
Austin passed an identical policy earlier this year that's already been challenged by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who believes that mandatory paid sick leave violates Texas' prohibition on raising the minimum wage above what's required by the federal government.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.