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Invalid sigs put brakes on red-light petitions

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Invalid sigs put brakes on red-light petitions

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An attempt to put a ban on Tucson's traffic cameras on November's ballot has fallen short, with an audit showing petition organizers failed to gather enough valid signatures for the initiative to make the ballot.

Although former state legislator John Kromko and the group Traffic Justice turned in over 22,000 signatures, a random check showed the effort to ban the city's red light cameras fell short of the 12,730 signatures from Tucson voters needed to force a vote.

The mandatory examination of five percent of the signatures showed just 55 percent were valid. Of 1,032 checked, only 569 were voters registered in the city. Applying that rate to all the petitions submitted would mean only 11,124 valid signatures were turned in, City Clerk Roger Randolph said.

At the beginning of the month, Kromko said he was "virtually assured" that the issue would make the ballot, but acknowledged Monday that his effort fell short, saying he was "shocked" by the number of signers who weren't city residents.

"A large number of the 22,000 signatures that were turned in were from people who were not registered or were registered outside the city limits," he said in an email Monday.

"All signatures were collected by volunteers, which usually results in a high validity rate," Kromko said. "People, especially in communities near the city, wanted to sign the petition so bad that they didn’t even hear the instructions."

"People would sign with an address in Marana, Oro Valley, or Vail," despite being told by petition circulators that they must be registered in the city, he said.

Kromko pushed for scrapping the traffic-enforcement cameras because he considers them a "scam ... operated by a private for-profit corporation" and used by the city to generate revenue.

City officials said that since the cameras were installed in 2007, crashes at the eight intersections where the cameras are installed dropped from 200 in 2006 to 74 in 2007. The city is paid about $680,000 annually by the contractor running the camera program.

 Kromko's faced petition troubles before. In a 2008 run for the Legislature, pleaded guilty to forgery charges related to the signatures on his nominating petitions.

While he needed to turn in just 400 signatures to make the primary ballot in a state House race, he turned in twice that many. He lost that election, and was charged with 19 counts, including forgery, identity theft and fraudulent schemes, regarding 29 disputed signatures on his petitions. As part of a 2009 plea deal, Kromko was forbidden from running for office for five years and placed on probation for two years.

Kromko, a Democrat, served in the Legislature from 1976-1990.

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