More than 30,000 signatures have been collected in a referendum petition drive that aims to place the planned Atlanta public safety training center on the ballot, the group leading the effort announced Tuesday.
The announcement comes just weeks before the deadline of Aug. 19, by which time the Cop City Vote coalition must have 70,000 signatures of registered Atlanta voters signed to petitions. Organizers say they hope to have more than that number ready to go a week earlier than the deadline.
“It has been 33 days since our petition was approved and we started collecting signatures to put Cop City on the ballot and let Atlanta decide,” Kate Shapiro, Cop City Vote tactical lead, said in the video announcing the signature collection amount. “We’ve had over 600 volunteers join us in this effort, out in these hot Atlanta streets, getting these signatures to let Atlanta decide and give the people a chance to vote.”
About 75% of the signatures, around 23,000, were collected by volunteers, including work by partner organizations like New Georgia Project and CASA. In a statement, CASA, an organization that supports immigrant families living in the United States, said they’ve been focusing on targeting non-English language communities to sign the petition.
“They didn’t ask the people most impacted by this what they’d want,” Carliana Harris, CASA communications specialist for Georgia, said in a statement. “Our people — not corporations or the police foundation — should be making decisions for our neighborhoods. That’s why we support putting this up for a vote. By putting this issue on the ballot, we can give a voice to those whose perspectives have been consistently ignored.”
Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com
Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com
In a statement, New Georgia Project Action Fund, an affiliate of New Georgia Project, announced their involvement in the canvassing and signature collection effort. The organization launched a door-to-door canvass program last week with a goal of collecting 15,000 petition signatures by the August 14 deadline.
“Decisions this important — ones that involve public funds and impact community safety — should represent the will and needs of the people,” Keron Blair, New Georgia Project Action Fund Chief Field and Organizing Officer, said in a statement. “That’s what a democracy is all about. We are excited by the prospect of a ballot referendum as it allows community members to make their voices heard, loud and clear, and helps folks understand the power they have when they participate in our democracy,”
Paul Glaze, spokesperson for the referendum efforts, said the other 7,000 signatures were collected from a paid canvassing operation, which offers between $22 and $25 an hour. Glaze estimates the number of collected signatures has already increased given that more than 1,000 petitions are out on the streets at any given time and the 30,000 figure doesn’t include signatures collected so far this week.
Opponents of the training facility launched the campaign last month in an attempt to put the question of the controversial training facility in front of voters. The referendum campaign was launched days after Atlanta City Council approved a funding package that cleared the way for the construction of the facility.
Signatures for the petition can only be legally collected by residents of Atlanta that were registered voters in 2021.
Organizers have 60 days since Atlanta’s municipal clerk’s office approved the petition on June 22, after it was initially denied twice. A lawsuit filed by DeKalb County residents in federal court requests that the period to garner signatures be restarted.
Both the state and the city of Atlanta called the referendum “invalid” in responses to the federal suit, with the city calling the petition drive a “futile” effort, according to federal court documents.
If the referendum petition is approved, the vote on the ballot referendum could come as soon as this year’s general election on Nov. 7, or on March 12, 2024, the day of Georgia’s presidential primary.