The first batch of Yakima election ballots already could be in the mail by the time the city’s request to halt new elections reaches the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Yakima City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday night to seek a stay of elections under a court-ordered system that put all seven seats on the ballot in new districts. A federal judge ordered the new system in February, but there was no push for a stay until just last week, when the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a Texas voting rights case that could undo the judge’s ruling in Yakima. The timing caused some council members to ask why the decision wasn’t made earlier, with one councilman saying it was the city’s own defense attorney who originally discouraged it. Another wondered openly whether the stay was merely an attempt by some to stay in office longer.
The timing of the motion also looms large over Yakima County elections officials, who continue work on 32,000 primary ballots that will go out to Yakima voters on July 15. And on June 19, less than two weeks from now, about 250 military and overseas ballots are to be mailed to voters registered in the city of Yakima, elections officials said.
“We really don’t have a lot of time,” Yakima County Elections Manager Kathy Fisher said.
Yakima’s attorneys estimate it will take one to two weeks to file a motion for a stay. When the court will hear and rule on it is anyone’s guess.