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Petition to put Austin homeless camping item on 2020 ballots was insufficient, clerk says

According to the City clerk, the petition contained many duplicate signatures and some requested to have their names removed.

AUSTIN, Texas — A petition from the local organization Save Austin Now to get the City of Austin to amend its code regarding camping ordinances did not succeed due to insufficiency, according to the City clerk's office.

City Clerk Jannette Goodall said at the time of the filing, the petition consisted of 11,198 pages and 24,598 signatures. However, Goodall said she received requests from 60 people asking that their names be withdrawn, as well as a list from Save Austin Now with 85 names requesting to be withdrawn before the petition was filed. She said 96 of the 145 names were located and marked off.

Upon further research, she said more than 1,000 samples were disqualified due to being duplicate signatures or for other reasons. Goodall's office then estimated that about 19,122 signatures were valid, which does meet the necessary benchmark figure of at least 20,000 to be considered.

RELATED: Save Austin Now launches effort to reinstate ban on homeless camping

Additionally, the clerk's office said it discovered that the petition contained two different versions of language being used in the proposed ordinance. A small number of pages had different wording than the main petition, and therefore 93 pages with 397 signatures were also removed.

The amendments would have created offenses if people were found to be lying down on public sidewalks or sleeping outdoors.

The co-founders of Save Austin Now, Democrat Cleo Petricek and Republican Matt Mackowiak, release the following joint 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. 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.”

The City of Austin altered its ordinances in the summer of 2019. The Austin City Council then voted on changes to the newly adopted ordinances in October 2019 after facing backlash.

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