Tucson’s unusual method of electing council members will remain. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday morning rebuffed a bid by a group representing some Republicans to void the system of nominating council members by ward but having them elected at large. The justices gave no reason for their ruling. Monday’s action is the last word in the multi-year bid by the Public Integrity Alliance to have state and federal courts declare that the practice was an unconstitutional violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Attorney Kory Langhofer who represented challengers argued that the system gave some voters more power than others and, in some cases, effectively nullified their votes. But that contention was most recently rejected by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Tucson’s hybrid system for electing members of its city council imposes no constitutionally significant burden on voters’ rights to vote,” the appellate court concluded. “And Tucson has advanced a valid, sufficiently important interest to justify its choice of electoral system.”
Langhofer told Capitol Media Services the loss is not entirely unexpected. “I think that what happens when you sue the government … there’s a thumb on the scale for the government in litigation,” he said.
“In some cases, it’s not even invisible,” Langhofer continued, saying that courts generally start with the premise that a law is constitutional. “We’re sort of bumping up against that in this case.”