Republican Party Prevails as 9th Circuit Rules City of Tucson Violating Rights of Republican Voters
PHOENIX – This afternoon Chairman Robert Graham of the Arizona Republican Party celebrated a legal victory based on the opinion issued by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals which declared as unconstitutional Tucson’s city election system because it violates the rights of Republican voters.
“We are grateful that the court has overturned Tucson’s outrageous election scheme which effectively excluded Republicans from the City Council,” said Arizona Republican Party Chairman Robert Graham. “The court acknowledged that Arizona voters generally choose Republicans, and that Tucson Democrats gave themselves an ‘enormous advantage’ by carefully excluding voters from selecting the candidate of their choice. This is a big win for the voters.”
The case, Public Integrity Alliance (PIA) vs. City of Tucson, was filed because Tucson holds partisan primary elections in different districts, but puts the winners of each party’s primary on one city-wide ballot. All Tucson voters then vote on all council seats, making it impossible for a minority party from even one district to ever win a seat. PIA argued that voters outside a particular district were prohibited from voting in that district’s primary, but were forced in the general election to choose between primary winners they had been prohibited from choosing.
PIA is represented by Kory Langhofer of Statecraft, who filed the lawsuit in April 2015. Bruce Ash, Arizona’s Republican National Committeeman, is a resident of Tucson and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
“It is incredibly difficult to persuade a court to overturn an 85-year-old elections system, especially when the government has successfully defended that system in similar cases. This is a very satisfying outcome in a high stakes and hard fought case,” said Langhofer. “It’s important to remember that this case was brought and won under the ‘one man, one vote’ principle. The ruling obviously has a partisan effect, but the decision was based not on party loyalties but on principles of fairness and equality. And as a result of this ruling, the residents of Tucson soon will have a fair and equal electoral system, which is their right under our Constitution.”
“Republican voters living on the east and north east side of our town have not enjoyed representation from their council representative in many years under the archaic Tucson City Charter. Ward-only elections would give the Republican Party a fair chance to represent residents in Wards 2 and 4,” Ash said. “Democrats currently enjoy a 7-0 supermajority on the Tucson City Council. Recently an appointed commission was charged with making changes in the Tucson City Charter. Notwithstanding wide-ranging support for ward-only elections by Tucson residents, the Mayor and Council refused to place a ward-only council election proposition on the ballot in last week’s election. The plaintiffs in this case hope the decision handed down today might lead to greater fairness and diversity on the Tucson City Council.”
Tucson also has a commonly-used system of staggered elections in which council members serve four year terms with elections held every two years. Wards 1, 2 and 4 are elected in one election, and wards 3, 5 and 6 two years later. Last week three Republican primary winners in wards 3, 5 and 6 who had advanced to the general election were defeated when voters outside their wards voted in the general election. The court ruled the hundred-year-old system violates the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, specifically the Equal Protection Clause which guarantees each voter be treated equally under the law.
The court’s opinion is available here: