Editor's Note: This story was updated at 4:02 p.m. Nov. 7 to add comments from a measure opponent and clarify other information.
Motorists in Murrieta won't have to worry about red-light cameras much longer, with voters approving a measure that called for a ban on the ticket-issuing systems.
Yes votes on Measure N were cast by 57.20 percent—or 15,112—of Murrieta voters, according to election results posted Wednesday morning by the Riverside County Registrar of Voters' Office. Those who voted no on Measure N numbered 42.80 percent, or 11,309 Murrieta voters.
The next updated elections results were expected at 6 p.m. Thursday.
"Approximately, 105,000 vote-by-mail, 60,000 provisional, and 18,000 damaged ballots that require duplication still must be processed. Work on those ballots begins today," the registrar's office wrote in a Facebook post.
The Murrieta red-light systems were first deployed in 2006 at three intersections: Whitewood and Murrieta Hot Springs roads, Margarita Road and Murrieta Hot Springs, and Nutmeg Street and Clinton Keith Road.
Advocates contended the cameras have saved lives, but critics countered that they are ineffective and unfair.
"The citizens have won—not me—the citizens," said Measure N proponent Diana Serafin, as she celebrated Tuesday night at Spelly's Pub and Grille in Murrieta.
"The $500 tickets were ridiculous...paying Goldman Sachs and ATS (American Traffic Solutions) half the money, it is just a scam."
ATS donated approximately $80,000 to a committee whose goal was to defeat Measure N, The Press-Enterprise reported.
Serafin, a conservative political activist, got support from Safer Streets L.A. Executive Director Jay Beeber when drafting an argument for the ballot.
"The unfortunate truth is that red light ticketing cameras can't improve safety because they cannot prevent the serious collisions caused by motorists who are impaired, distracted or fatigued and enter the intersection long after the light has turned red," Measure N backers wrote in a campaign statement. "More tickets, less safety."
Backers said comparison of collision data from the five years before the city's red light cameras were installed to the five years after shows collisions overall jumped 120 percent, while rear-end collisions spiked a whopping 285 percent higher.
"And while the cameras increased accidents, by the time of this election, Murrieta will have issued almost 12,000 tickets at almost $500 each, removing millions of dollars from our local economy and wasting thousands of valuable police man hours," initiative backers wrote. "The vast majority of these tickets go to drivers who miss the end of the yellow phase by a fraction of a second."
Initiative opponents, including Councilmen Rick Gibbs and Alan Long, argued that Measure N's authors were spinning data to suit their purposes. Opponents wrote in a ballot statement that red-light running at camera-enforced intersections plummeted from 5,100 to 121 incidents from 2005 to 2011 and that half the people ticketed were three car lengths away from the intersection when the light changed and they chose to continue through it.
"Seventy-two percent of the red light violations were written to drivers who do not live in Murrieta," opponents said. "It is people passing through our town who put your life in danger."
The city of Los Angeles deactivated its red light camera system last year based on doubts about its effectiveness as a deterrent and the fact that local courts wouldn't uphold the citations.
From 2004 to 2010, the city of Los Angeles issued 183,000 tickets, valued at more than $80 million. An audit of the automated traffic enforcement program, however, found no corresponding increase in safety at the intersections generating citations.
In the fight to ban cameras in Murrieta, Serafin said: "It has been a long two years."
Though Serafin and co-proponent Robin Nielson gathered enough signatures to get the measure on the ballot, there was a pre-election question as to whether the initiative would survive a lawsuit.
Steve Flynn, who was instrumental in bringing the cameras to the city when he served as a volunteer Murrieta Public and Safety Traffic Commissioner, filed the suit in June.
The measure survived the suit.
"The Supreme Court has stated that 'it is usually more appropriate to review constitutional and other challenges to ballot propositions or initiative measures after an election rather than to disrupt the electoral process by preventing the exercise of the people’s franchise, in the absence of some clear showing of invalidity,'" wrote Justice Art. W. McKinster, in the ruling.
Flynn, who was not initially available Wednesday morning to give his reaction to the election results or answer whether there might be further legal action brought against Measure N, spoke with Patch later in the day.
He said he does not have any plans to carry out further legal against against the measure.
"It was a very sad day in Murrieta last night," Flynn told Patch. "I don't like it but I respect it. I am not going to fight it; that would not be fair to the 15,1000 people who voted for it. I am sorry they were misled."
He did, however, have a question for the measure backers: "How are you going to feel when the cameras are gone and an innocent person gets injured or killed. How will you be able to sleep at night?"
The measure, as approved by more than half of Murrieta voters—pending certified election results—calls for city council to approve an ordinance prohibiting the cameras and for the removal of existing ones.
City Clerk Kay Vinson told Patch Wednesday the elections results were scheduled to be certified at the Dec. 4 Murrieta City Council meeting.
"The ordinance would go into effect 10 days after that," Vinson said. "That is the standard initiative process."