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Republicans sue to be declared Council winners

Even though they lost the city-wide vote, two of the three GOP candidates for City Council are asking a judge to declare them the winners, based on a 9th Circuit ruling that Tucson's elections are unconstitutional. Kelly Lawton and Margaret Burkholder won their East Side wards, but lost in landslides in the total vote count.... Read more»

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Nov 16, 2015, 7:18 pm
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I think the city should refrain from filing an appeal and instead spend the money more prudently in commencing a wide open conversation aimed at changing the charter to enact an election system with which everyone can live relatively contentedly.

Judge Kozinski has pointed in one direction with reasoning which I find decidedly unpersuasive. His argument that Council members represent the whole city and therefore might best be elected by the whole electorate is counterindicated by the reality that Council members serve as the representatives and in a sense the ombudsmen of portions of the city — wards — in which they reside and maintain offices and staffs. Of course they work together on behalf of the entire city but each has special concern for his or her ward. Kozinski’s logic would seem to demand that our legislators be elected statewide rather than by district, since as a body they represent the state. He seems to miss the distinction between the responsibility of the individual member of the Council and the responsibility of the Mayor and Council as a whole. Every day each Council member lives that distinction and it’s reasonable that they own it, even to the point of admitting that they ought to be able to win an election limited to their own ward.

Judge Tallman appears to think the city conducts two separate elections every two years and that there is no need for them to have identical electorates. He seems to recognize an even greater separation than does the charter between the primary and general elections. While it might be encouraging to any who would resist change to think his view would prevail in an appeal, I’d suggest you read his dissent carefully. I don’t think you’ll find it persuasive.

For myself, I find few if any arguments by appellants, respondents or judges compelling. Republicans in Tucson and Pima County are not a protected minority. Council members are not primarily representative of the whole city. The electorate of Ward One is not deprived of a vote because it can only vote in a primary for its representative and cannot vote in the Ward Two primary. The general election votes of Republicans in Ward Four are diluted because voters in the rest of the city are able to vote for Ward Four’s Council member.

Of the options open to us now, I believe appeal to be the worst. Next would be a decision taken in council to offer the electorate a charter change to citywide primary elections. This would be seen as an effort to retain the status quo, in which it is difficult — hardly impossible — for the minority party to win any council seats. Better would be an open dialogue, hopefully leading to consensus on a charter change to be presented to the voters at the next feasible opportunity. I’ve writtena charter change’ because the notion of placing two or more alternatives on the ballot would probably be confusing and perhaps lead to an inconclusive result.

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Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.com

Republican candidates Kelly Lawton and Margaret Burkholder announced Friday that they were challenging the results of the recent City Council election.

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