A jury trial to determine whether opponents of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance collected enough valid signatures to force a repeal or election on the issue ended with a mixed verdict last week. Findings were sent to the judge who will deliberate on the outcome, according to the Houston Chronicle.
To repeal HERO or call for an election, opponents needed 17,000 signatures. They turned in petitions with more than 50,000 signatures, but the city determined less than 4,000 were valid.
Pages of petitions were invalidated by the city because they were not notarized. Others were not signed by Houston voters. Some pages had the same handwriting on every line. Some pages were the result of signature table parties — one person signed the first line on each page, another the next line. Other pages were unsigned by the petition circulator.
When all of those fraudulent signatures were thrown out, opponents decided to sue.
The jury findings go to the judge who has broad discretion. However he finally rules — that there are enough valid signatures to proceed with a recall election or there aren’t — the losing side is expected to appeal. The opposition is claiming victory, however, because the jury didn’t find fraud was involved.The Houston recall organizers are working with Prestonwood Baptist Church and others to recall the Plano Equal Rights Ordinance that does not have the number of protections provided in Houston’s law and allows anyone to claim a religious exemption in order to discriminate.