This could be a test case for citizen ballot initiatives in Atlanta, and possibly across the state.

by Cody Bloomfield, Truthout

A court case heard in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on December 14, 2023, could have a decisive impact on the legal fight to finally put Cop City on the ballot. If successful, the citizen ballot initiative would put a question to voters about whether to revoke the lease of land to the Atlanta Police Foundation to build the massive militarized police training facility, which has seen grassroots resistance reach a fever pitch this year.

In Atlanta, for a citizen ballot initiative to be voted on in a general election, petition gatherers must collect signatures equivalent to 15 percent of active registered Atlanta voters within 60 days. On June 21, 2023, after delays imposed by the city, Atlanta residents could begin gathering signatures. But DeKalb County residents — where Cop City will be built — would not be able to gather signatures unless they were chaperoned by a Fulton County resident. DeKalb residents sued, and on July 27, 2023, a district court issued an injunction allowing them to collect signatures. Critically, the court also reset the clock, allowing collection of signatures beyond the original 60 days, adopting the Vote to Stop Cop City argument that the residency restriction significantly hampered constitutionally protected political expression. The City of Atlanta then appealed the injunction to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. On December 14, the Eleventh Circuit considered questions that could throw the entire referendum effort into jeopardy. Early next year, the court could issue a ruling altering which signatures — if any — can be counted.

police attack stop cop city protestors

When the Vote to Stop Cop City coalition turned the petitions in, optimism ran high. “The mayor and city council tried to overstep citizens and silence them,” said Britney Whaley, a member of the Vote to Stop Cop City coalition in a September 12 press release. “But the people are making sure their voices are heard.”

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