U.S. District Court upholds Tucson’s electoral system

TucsonBack in April I posted about Republicans sue to overturn City of Tucson electoral system, once again. A hearing on the motion for preliminary injunction to prevent the City of Tucson from going forward with this year’s mayor and council races using the electoral system that the Tucson City Charter has mandated since 1929 was held a couple of weeks ago.

Yesterday, to no one’s surprise, U.S. District Judge Cindy Jorgenson denied the motion for  preliminary injunction ruling in favor of the City of Tucson, and once again upheld the electoral system that the Tucson City Charter has mandated since 1929.  Order (.pdf):

VI. Conclusion

Consideration of Plaintiffs’ claims of a denial of the right to vote under the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Arizona Constitution, and the Free and Equal Elections Clause of the Arizona Constitution is appropriate under a rational basis [standard of] review. The important regulatory interests of Tucson justify the reasonable, nondiscriminatory restrictions placed by Tucson upon the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of voters.

Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED:

1. The Motion for Preliminary Injunction (Doc. 3) is DENIED.

2. Plaintiffs’ claim of a dilution of the right to vote as stated in Count II is DISMISSED.

3. Judgment is awarded in favor of Defendants and against Plaintiffs as to Plaintiffs’ claim of a denial of the right to vote under the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Count I), the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Arizona Constitution (Count III), and the Free and Equal Elections Clause of the Arizona Constitution (Count IV).

4. The Clerk of Court shall enter judgment and close its file in this matter.

The filing deadline for mayor and council candidates is next Wednesday, May 27, 2015 at 5:00 p.m. Election law attorney Rick Hasen has identified a consistent theme in court actions, which he calls the “Purcell principle” after the 2006 Supreme Court case Purcell v. Gonzalez: Lower courts should be very reluctant to change the rules just before an election, because of the risk of voter confusion and chaos for election officials. How to Predict a Voting Rights Decision. This is a guiding principle in any election law appeal.

The Arizona Daily Star reports, Judge OKs Tucson’s peculiar elections:

The city’s longstanding election system may be weird, but it’s not unconstitutional, a federal judge has ruled.

A lawsuit filed by the Public Integrity Alliance and a group of Tucson Republicans claimed the system, which uses ward-only primary elections and at-large general elections to choose City Council members, violated the Constitution.

They said Tucson’s system deprives or dilutes their right to vote under the Equal Protection Clause — the “one man, one vote” protection.

But U.S. District Judge Cindy Jorgenson ruled in favor of the city Wednesday and said the city’s system is reasonable.

“The City has broad power to establish the procedure and provide conditions for the nomination and election process for city offices,” the judge wrote in her decision.

“The procedure established by the Tucson City Charter does not employ a system in which districts of unequal population could result in unequal representation and does not involve unequal weighting of votes.”

The judge also denied the Public Integrity Alliance’s request for an injunction to block the city from holding this year’s City Council elections under the current rules.

Plaintiff Bruce Ash, a national Republican committeeman, said he is disappointed in the outcome and will file an appeal.

“I’m still hoping the City Council will come to their senses and put ward-only elections on the ballot this year,” he said.

Bruce Ash does not even live within the City of Tucson, although his complaint asserted that he will be moving into the city. Hell no, we don’t want you! The Tucson Weekly used to run an annual feature called “Get Out of Town!” and Bruce Ash earned a spot on the list in 2011 (The Tucson Weekly, sadly, has since discontinued this feature). Bruce Ash can qualify for “Get Out of Town!” every year.

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