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Travis County Prop 1 Safe From Lawsuit

by: Edward Garris

Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 10:30 AM CST

Travis County Proposition 1 ("Prop 1") is safe for now.  Voters on Election Day approved it, and so far, a lawsuit has not undone it.

Three private parties and a PAC had filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in federal district court in Austin on November 7.  They sought to bar the canvassing of the ballots for Proposition 1.  The PAC is Travis County Taxpayers Union Special Political Action Committee (the "PAC").  They claimed that the ballot language of Prop 1 violated (1) Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (the "Act"), (2) the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution, (3) the due-course-of-law provision of the Texas Constitution, and (4) the Texas Election Code.  

What was the basis for these violations?  The PAC and other plaintiffs in the suit contended that the language on the Proposition 1 ballot violated the Voting Rights Act by discriminating "against voters with a less reading comprehension, and particularly among minority voters."

To restate, the plaintiffs were intervening on behalf of minorities who had never asked for their help in the first place, attempting to vacate their vote, and doing so in the name of the Voting Rights Act, which was enacted specifically to ensure that the will of minorities at the ballot box would be realized, rather than suppressed - or vacated in a lawsuit.  Moreover, they rested their claims on the assertion that those minorities were too ignorant to understand the ballot on which they voted.

Rudyard Kipling, anyone?

The plaintiffs also argued that while language concerning the purpose of a bond issue may be included in a ballot bond proposition, informational language concerning the purpose of a tax increase could not be so included.

In denying the motion for a preliminary injunction, Judge Lee Yeakel found that the plaintiffs did not demonstrate a substantial likelihood of success on the merits (a prerequisite for granting a preliminary injunction prior to trial), and that there was no immediate harm from canvassing the ballots.  Specifically, he noted that the plaintiffs provided absolutely no legal authority for their argument that the ballot language violated the Act.  Moreover, Judge Yeakel pointed out that evidentiary affidavits supporting the motion were undated and that the lawsuit was filed before the petitioners (who claimed to be confused by the ballot language) had even voted.

For now, therefore, the result is that the canvassing of the ballots will go on as planned on Monday.

The order may be viewed here.


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