Thursday, September 15, 2011

Texas: Jasper Goes Federal, with a possible novel legal argument about At-Large districts

Even more follow-up on the Jasper recall (see here for the last installment). After being forced by the state courts to hold a recall (the city council refused to schedule one), Jasper officials are now appealing to federal court to stop the recall (here's a copy of the complaint).

One interesting twist to the complaint. When the city adopted the recall provision in 1964, the city council was elected in an at-large basis. In 1991, it switched to single member districts, but did not change the recall law (which appears to allow signatures from voters in other districts to be used to recall councilmembers). According to the complaint:

The current City Charter violates the rights of Plaintiffs and all other residents in City Council Districts 3 and 4 to the equal protection of the laws in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The City’s Charter is in direct conflict with the Voting Rights Act because voters in single-member minority districts are deprived of their duly elected representatives by Jasper residents who are not qualified to vote for the Council Members they are seeking to recall.
I'll have to look around to see if that argument has been made before in the context of a recall. There should be a lot of material out there on the misuse of at-large districts in the South. 

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