Election Law @ Moritz

Election Law Litigation

United States of America v. City of Euclid, Ohio

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Detailed Summary

On July 10, 2006, the US Attorney General sued the City of Euclid, Ohio, along with its City Council and the Board of Elections of the Ohio county in which Euclid sits. The suit claims that Euclid 's system for electing City Council members violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits voting practices or procedures that result "in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen. to vote on account of race or color [1]."

The US identifies two procedures it claims violate the Act. First, it claims that Euclid 's system of using at-large elections to elect five out of its nine City Council members "dilutes the voting strength of African-American citizens [2]." At-large elections are elections in which candidates are not elected by voters from any particular district of a city, but by the voters of the city as a whole. This is in contrast with single-member district or other district-based systems, in which candidates run only in a particular district and only voters from that district may place votes for that candidate. The US claims that Euclid African-Americans are "sufficiently numerous and geographically compact" to be able to elect candidates of their choice under a single-member district system, but not under the current system because it allows white voters to "consistently vote. as a bloc so as to defeat every. African-American candidate" supported by the Euclid black community [3]. Thus, according to the US , Euclid 's decision to use the at-large system rather than a district-based system is a "standard, practice or procedure" that violates Section 2 of the Act [4].

The US also objects to Euclid 's use of "numbered slots [5]." While the complaint does not specifically define what it means by this term, it probably means a procedure whereby each City Council seat is treated as a separate contest; candidates must designate what seat they are running for and will only be in competition with those candidates who have designated the same seat. Under this system, voters will cast multiple votes, one for each disputed seat. The US claims that the numbered slots system "has the effect of limiting elections to single seat elections that result in head-to-head contests, thereby eliminating the opportunity of African-American voters to single-shot vote [6]." In a non-numbered slot, at-large election, African-American voters might be better situated than in a numbered-slot election to increase their chances of electing a candidate of their choice by using single-shot voting-by combining all minority voting power behind one candidate.

In addition to these disputed items, the US alleges that "there are several [other] features of. [Euclid's] election system that reduce the opportunity of African-American voters to overcome the effect of white bloc voting [7]." However, the complaint does not specify what these other features are.

The US seeks an injunction preventing Defendants from "administering, implementing, or conducting any future elections" under the current election system [8]. It also seeks a judgment declaring that Euclid 's election system violates the Voting Rights Act, and a court order to force the city to implement a system that complies with that Act [9].

[1] For information on Section 2 of the VRA, including its text, see http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/sec_2/about_sec2.html#sec2.

[2] See Complaint, July 10, 2006 at 2-3.

[3] Id. at pg. 3.

[4] Id. at pg. 2.

[5] Id. at pg. 3.

[6] Id. at pg. 3.

[7] Id. at pg. 3.

[8] Id. at pp. 4-5.

[9] Id. at pg. 5.