There's ongoing debate over the need for traffic cameras that aim to catch red-light runners and speeding motorists. Law enforcement officials say they promote safer driving. Critics say they're nothing more than a money grab.

There's no debate over the fact voters don't like automated traffic enforcement. They rejected the use of these automated camera systems by roughly 3-to-1 margins in four high-profile ballot measures Tuesday.

Voters have rejected automated camera use for enforcement purposes in 31 of 34 referendums that date back to 1991.

In Cleveland, a referendum that bans camera use unless a law enforcement officer is present passed with 78 percent of the vote. In suburban Maple Heights, Ohio, 76 percent of voters went a step further on a separate measure, prohibiting use of traffic cameras all together.

In Sierra Vista, Arizona, Proposition 408, which bans the use of cameras for traffic enforcement within the city limits, garnered 75 percent of the vote, though not all precincts had reported results by Wednesday afternoon. And in Missouri, 72 percent of voters in St. Charles County voted to ban traffic cameras.

Jason Sonenshein, an activist who helped gather signatures for the ballot initiative in Cleveland, said the cameras are about revenue generation and threaten motorists' due process. "There is no presumption of innocence," he told The Plain Dealer. "You don't have the same procedural rights that you would if you got a citation from a real officer."
Several of the referendums were contentious. In Maple Heights, activists gathered the necessary number of signatures to place the measure on the ballot in August, but still needed a last-minute ruling from the Ohio Supreme Court to compel the city's council to include the measure on the ballot.

In Sierra Vista, police said an employee of RedFlex, a company that creates and manages automated enforcement cameras, ripped down political signs that supported the ban on cameras, according to the Sierra Vista Herald. A RedFlex spokesperson wasn't immediately available for comment.

Such measures are traditionally unpopular with voters, who have rejected automated camera use for enforcement purposes in 31 of 34 referendums that date back to 1991, according to records kept by TheNewspaper.com, a website that tracks data related to motorist issues.

AAA, the nation's largest organization for car owners, supports the use of traffic cameras for enforcement purposes and says they bring a safety benefit. But it acknowledges the camera programs are a sensitive issue, and not always deployed correctly.

"It's hard to see a national trend from a few elections, but what I can say is that in places where it has generated the most controversy, like Washington D.C. for example, it's where it hasn't been implemented properly, where procedures are not transparent and where there's more emphasis in generating revenue," says Michael Green, AAA spokesperson. "... We believe the public should be very aware that automated enforcement is in place. The goal is not to give tickets. The goal is deterrence."

The rejection of automated enforcement cameras by voters is one reason their overall use is faltering. The number of red-light camera programs in the United States has fallen in the past two years, though the number of speed-camera programs has continued a steady increase.

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