Judge dismisses voting rights lawsuit against city

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Wednesday May 18th, 2022 by Jo Clifton

In a brief letter Tuesday, Travis County District Court Judge Lora Livingston ruled in favor of the city of Austin and against the plaintiffs who argued they were denied their right to vote following a redistricting. The plaintiffs argued that when they were moved to another district that is not voting this year, they lost the ability to vote that they would have had in their previous districts. The virtual hearing took place last week.

Attorney Bill Aleshire argued on behalf of the 13 plaintiffs seeking to force the city to hold elections in Districts 2, 4, 6, 7 and 10 in November. The city is currently due to hold elections for mayor and city council districts 1, 3, 5, 8 and 9.

Some people have been moved from one neighborhood to another; for example, from District 1 to District 4, where council member Chito Vela was elected with his district’s former constituency in January. He will complete the term of his predecessor, Greg Casar, who left to run for Congress.

The plaintiffs argued that new members of this district were disenfranchised because they will not be able to vote for a district representative until 2024. Other voters were moved from District 4 to District 1, making them makes them eligible to vote again in November.

However, Judge Livingston ruled that the city charter’s staggered term requirement did not violate the Texas Constitution as a whole, nor the constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

Lawyers for the city argued that the courts have already rejected arguments that any temporary postponement of an opportunity to vote violates the constitution. The judge agreed and granted their motion for summary judgment.

Aleshire had previously filed a petition for mandamus with the 3rd Court of Appeals and the Texas Supreme Court. The appeals court quickly denied his motion and the case now goes to the state Supreme Court for a final decision.

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