We spent the morning in the 152nd courtroom for the latest hearing regarding the petitions submitted by opponents of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.
The number of valid signatures remains in flux as the City of Houston and the Plaintiffs both make their case for why some signatures should be accepted and others should not.
When last we checked there were over 5,000 signatures that the City had deemed illegible, and on Friday of last week we were told that opponents were lacking sufficient signatures by about 660. At today's hearing the attorney for the opposition, Andy Taylor, was attempting to make the argument that some individuals who had been declared invalid because they did not reside within the City of Houston, had simply moved since the time they signed the petition.
Judge Schaffer reminded Mr. Taylor that he had absolutely no evidence to support that claim and when pressed on it Taylor admitted that he was making an assumption to that end.
We have continued to see opponents of HERO moving the goal posts when it comes to this trial. After demanding a trial by jury, which they got, they are now pretending as if the jury's verdict has no bearing on the final tally. To be clear, the jury uncovered widespread forgeries in the submitted petitions, among other problems. It is easy to see why the Plaintiffs want to ignore the jury's findings.
The numbers as we know them today are as follows:
The City of Houston is saying they have been able to confirm 16,619 signatures, 650 fewer than required to trigger a referendum vote.
The HERO opponents are not offering a firm number on their count. They are stating that they have validated at least 17,500 (231 over the requirement) and as many as 25,000 signatures - again, they would not offer an actual count.
During the post-hearing presser, opponents showboated in front of the media using David vs. Goliath comparisons, claiming the city was imposing a poll tax on voters (which was confusing since no election has happened yet) and continuing their attack on Mayor Annise Parker.
Taylor emphasized that Mayor Parker has said this fight is personal to her...which is understandable since Taylor mentioned her name no fewer than 10 times during the presser.
Judge Schaffer is reviewing the information at hand and a ruling is expected by the end of the week.
It is worth nothing that Mayoral candidate Ben Hall has attended at least 2 of the hearings related to HERO and has stood with opponents of the ordinance in each instance. No other municipal candidate, to our knowledge, has made appearances at any of the HERO hearings unless required to testify.
We will continue to update you as information becomes available.