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Atlanta agrees to scan referendum petition for police training center

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(The Center Square) — The Atlanta City Council approved legislation to start scanning forms filed as part of a petition calling for a referendum on the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center.

The measure directs the city clerk to scan and publicly disclose the more than 115,000 signatures submitted on Sept. 11 from those who want a referendum on the training center, derisively called “Cop City.” Opponents want voters to decide on the training center during this November’s election.

After opponents sued the city, a federal judge extended the deadline for them to submit signatures. However, an appellate court paused the order, sending the matter to an appeals court and rendering the process somewhat ambiguous.

“While we await a ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on this issue, the Atlanta City Council acknowledges the public interest in continuing to advance the democratic process,” the city council said in a statement. “In place of the Municipal Clerk’s legal authority to formally begin validating signatures, it is incumbent upon the city — for the common good — to immediately unseal, digitize, and disclose to the residents of the city of Atlanta — by Friday, September 29 — the contents of the submitted petition boxes.”

In June, the Atlanta City Council voted to allocate $30 million in uncommitted funds for the training center, which could cost $90 million and has sparked violent protests. Atlanta City Council Member Keisha Sean Waites previously said she expects the center to cost the city $67 million.

“The petition process surrounding the recent events has lacked integrity from the beginning,” Waites said in a statement. “The threat to verify signatures is tantamount to voter suppression. These tactics erode public trust and confidence and cause the voters to tune out and believe that the government does not support or work for them.”

While ostensibly a local issue, the training center has drawn state officials into the mix.

“Training our police officers, firefighters, and first responders should not be controversial – or political,” Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, said on X, previously known as Twitter. “Instead of hiding behind ballot processes or legal questions for a referendum, I hope elected leaders of both parties from across our state will voice their unequivocal support for the training center to enhance public safety in our capital city and our state for every Georgian we serve.”

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