Just imagine how it would feel to be a voter, candidate, or an election official in Palmdale today. Yesterday, on a split decision of 2-1, the Second Appellate District of the Court of Appeal overturned the lower court’s decision to stop the City of Palmdale’s November 5th City Council election. The majority judges focused on the grammatical use of an “or” instead of an “and” in the following sentence from the preliminary injunction:
“…defendant…[is] preliminary enjoined from holding an at-large election (as that term is defined in the [California Voting Rights Act]) for the Palmdale City Council, tabulating the results of such an at-large election, or certifying the results of such an at-large election.”
The decision was silent as to the plaintiff’s arguments regarding the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) and whether any immediate harm would occur to the rights of minority voters by holding this at-large election. Meanwhile, I personally agree with the dissenting Justice Kriegler when she stated:
“The text of the written order plainly enjoins all aspects of the election-voting, tabulation and certification. Any other interpretation renders the final two sentences of the order completely meaningless.”
According to the order, Palmdale may hold the election and tabulate the results, but the city cannot certify the results itself. Instead, the city must return to the appellate court for certification. Here are my additional practical and legal questions:
Would the appellate court really not certify the election results if this election was otherwise held properly? If so, on what basis?
So what does this mean for future CVRA cases?
Is this split decision enough to deter other courts from canceling future elections under similar circumstances?
Did any of the candidates suffer any economic harm?
The hearing on the remedy portion of the trial court’s decision is scheduled for the end of the month. Meanwhile, Palmdale has stated that it will appeal the decision prohibiting the city’s use of at-large election systems. At this point, it seems that the outcome of the remedy will only apply to future elections.