On July 3rd opponents of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) turned in petitions in an attempt to place HERO on the November ballot for a public vote.
In order to place the ordinance on the ballot, opponents were required to gather the signatures of 17,269 valid City of Houston voters. After a campaign of misinformation focusing on bathrooms, and with the help of Conservative churches and the work of paid circulators, opponents delivered seven boxes of petitions to the City Secretary.
So, the question becomes, what next?
First, once petitions have been submitted they become public information and accessible through the Texas Public Information Act. If a person has signed the petition to repeal equal rights, their name is now in the public record as opposing equality for all Houstonians.
What we can do is review the petitions.
In order for petition signatures to be valid, they have to come from City of Houston voters who were registered to vote prior to signing the petition. Those signatures must also have verified voter certificate numbers.
Reviewing the petitions will involve a large volunteer effort and organizers are providing training sessions on the process as well as fixed locations and dates for reviews and the ability to verify petitions remotely.
You can check the Events section of HOUequality.com for events. Once the petitions are in our hands, we will be able to put people to work sifting through the data.
Our job is to make sure the opposition is playing this game fairly. If past actions and words are any indication they likely are not.
Additionally, when paid circulators are used to gather signatures the likelihood of fraud increases (mainly because the circulators have no vested interest in the issue and are only concerned with meeting their quota and collecting their money).
Our job is to invalidate as many signatures as we can for legitimate reasons, be it an invalid voter, or poor training on the part of circulators.
Regardless of whether we are able to prove fraud has occurred, we must assume that HERO will be on the November ballot and prepare to win at the ballot box.
But if equal rights for all Houstonians are to be placed on the ballot it is incumbent upon us to make absolutely certain that the signatures used are valid, verified and legal.