Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA) wrote a letter to the City of Atlanta on Friday asking officials to be lenient when examining the petitions gathered to force a public referendum on the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center.
In his letter, Warnock reportedly advised Atlanta he is “closely monitoring” the petition, and claimed to be “concerned” the city’s signature matching and verification process “led to discrimination” and potential “disenfranchisement of eligible voters” during previous ballot initiatives. Warnock urged Atlanta “to err on the side of giving the people the ability to express their views” and to establish “clear and transparent timelines and requirements” going forward.
Warnock claimed to have “concerns [and] questions” in a post on X, formerly Twitter, about how Atlanta “is working to ensure eligible voters” can engage in the referendum process.
Activists claim to have gathered and delivered 116,000 signatures by September 11, but the matter was complicated by a judge who briefly extended the activists’ deadline from August 21 to late October, only to have the ruling stayed by a higher court. The city ultimately accepted receipt of the petition signatures, and said it would hold them “in a secure location” but would not begin processing them until the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issues a ruling with further guidance.
Warnock acknowledged the referendum’s future may now depend on the 11th Circuit’s ruling, according to The Atlanta Voice, but said that Atlanta “may continue to receive petitions in the future and may need to apply its petition verification processes in other settings,” and urged them to adhere by his requests, giving city officials until September 25 to respond.
Though the City of Atlanta has remained committed to a thorough examination of petition signatures, at least one member of the Atlanta City Council is warming to the referendum.
Post 3 At-Large Council Member Keisha Sean Waites recently indicated she supports the referendum, writing in a statement that Atlanta could instead spend the money “on affordable housing, resources for the unsheltered, infrastructure improvements, mental health services, health care for the uninsured, rental and mortgage and assistance” and “accommodation and salary increases for our first responders” including “law enforcement officers.”
The Atlanta Public Safety Training Center was originally announced in 2021. It soon sparked fiery protests, including a January 2023 protest that culminated in the death of a protester who successfully shot a Georgia State Trooper.
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr (R) issued an indictment against 61 individuals allegedly associated with the protests, including those involved in financing, logistics, and support for those behind the occupation of the forest surrounding the future site of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center.
The alleged criminals were charged using the Georgia Racketeering Influenced and Criminal Organizations (RICO) Act, and Carr’s indictment details an alleged nationwide effort to fund and provide logistics for criminal activities surrounding the protests.
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Tom Pappert is the lead reporter for The Georgia Star News and a reporter for the Arizona Sun Times. Follow Tom on X/Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Image “Sen Raphael Warnock” by Sen. Raphael Warnock.