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Hometown Democracy Sues Over Petition Law

Lesley Blackner

A group suing to add a growth management proposal to November's ballot says it is battling a Legislature that has waged "war" on the citizens petition process.

Hometown Democracy sued the state in federal court late Wednesday to get its proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot. The proposal would require voter approval for changes in plans that determine how and where cities and counties grow.

Hometown Democracy advocates say they have collected more than the 611,009 signatures needed, but were denied ballot access in part because of a new Feb. 1 deadline for submitting signatures. The lawsuit, filed in West Palm Beach, argues that cutoff date violates the U.S. Constitution.

There was no rational basis to move up the deadline for citizen initiatives from August, said Lesley Blackner, who heads Hometown Democracy.

The Division of Elections counted 564,558 verified signatures by the Feb. 1 deadline. Since then the number was increased to 595,368 - but that does not include 13,182 revoked under a new law.

Hometown Democracy's biggest enemies are development and business interests.

Those opponents successfully lobbied the Legislature in recent years to place constraints on the initiative process. Last year, lawmakers voted to let commercial establishments bar signature gatherers from their properties.

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