Tucson can continue to use the same two-tiered election system it has been using since the 1920s, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.
Friday’s ruling by an 11-judge panel erases a three-judge panel’s earlier decision. The court said Friday in its 19-page ruling that Tucson’s voting method doesn’t violate the U.S. Constitution’s commitment to one vote per person as alleged by the Public Integrity Alliance and a group of Republican voters.
The two-tiered system uses a ward-only primary election and a citywide general election. The city is divided into six wards.
“Tucson’s hybrid system for electing members of its city council imposes no constitutionally significant burden on voters’ rights to vote. And Tucson has advanced a valid, sufficiently important interest to justify its choice of electoral system,” the ruling states.
City Attorney Mike Rankin said he was happy with the ruling.
However, he said it is too early to tell whether the plaintiffs will seek another appeal.
“We will see if the other side wants to take the case all the way up to the Supreme Court,” Rankin said.
Public Integrity Alliance attorney Kory Langhofer declined Friday to say whether his clients will appeal.
He called the ruling disappointing.
“It will not ensure that the city of Tucson residents will be treated equally under the law,” Langhofer said.
Langhofer said he expects his clients to make a decision about appealing in about a week.
Councilman Steve Kozachik said the court got it right and that he hopes the Public Integrity Alliance does not continue its challenges.
“I hope these guys don’t continue wasting taxpayer money by appealing this. The 9th Circuit was unanimous in saying that our system is essentially the best of both worlds. It assures candidates know and understand their ward and it keeps us accountable to the entire community for the decisions we make that really do impact everyone,” he said.
“I’ve said all along that how we do our elections mirrors how we work on the council. Some issues are ward-centric and some affect the whole electorate.”