Organizers of a petition drive to stop Plano's new anti-discrimination ordinance misled supporters, failed to properly verify signatures and didn't follow Plano requirements for petition drives, the city says.
From the city:
On December 8, 2014, the Plano City Council approved an Equal Rights Ordinance, expanding the City's policy to prohibit discrimination against the following classes: U.S. Military/Veteran status, genetic information, sexual orientation and gender identity. The petition called for the City to either repeal that ordinance or submit it to the citizens for a vote.
The petition contained false information regarding the Equal Rights Ordinance, claiming it regulates bathrooms. The ordinance does not regulate bathrooms. By making this false representation, the Equal Rights petition asked signees to repeal an ordinance that does not exist.
Texas Election Code requires petitions submitted in cities located in two counties to include a column for the signee's county of voter registration. Since Plano is in two counties, that column was mandatory. However, none of the petition pages included it.
The Plano City Charter requires petitions to include a copy of the legislation sought to be repealed or changed. The Equal Rights petition did not include an attachment of the ordinance.
Three weeks before the now failed petition was turned in, Plano sent the groups organizing the petition an email outlining potential problems with their effort. Organizers failed to heed the city's warnings, according to the city secretary.
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"Petitioners submitted only 1,114 verifiable signatures on petition pages that did not include [the false information about restrooms]. However, as noted above, they lacked a copy of the ordinance as an attachment as required by the Plano City Charter.
In addition to the above referenced deficiencies with the petition pages themselves, every signature on each of the 919 petition pages was deficient in information required by the Texas Election Code. As a result, there were no valid signatures on any petition pages."
No valid signatures, not one.
Update 1:54 p.m.: The Liberty Institute, a conservative Christian advocacy organization that was one of the groups behind the petition has issued a response:
"While we are shocked that the City has so little regard for its citizens, we remain committed to advancing religious liberty and challenging this ordinance that clearly violates laws protecting religious freedom," Liberty Institute General Counsel Jeff Mateer says.