On August 22, U.S. District Court Judge David G. Campbell issued a temporary restraining order in Krieger v City of Peoria, Arizona, cv-14-1762. The order tells the city of Peoria to hold a special election for city council in one particular district, that will be separate from the regularly-scheduled city election of August 26, 2014. The name of one particular candidate for city council in that district was accidentally omitted from the original ballots, and many such faulty ballots were postally mailed to absentee voters. Then, the city realized the mistake and printed a second ballot, but that ballot also accidentally omitted Krieger’s name. Election officials then mailed a third ballot, with instructions to the absentee voters that said if they have already used the first or second ballots, that ballot would be counted; but that if they wished to use the third ballot, they should do so.
The instructions did not explain to the voters why a third ballot was being sent, and did not mention Krieger by name. He sued, alleging that the election is therefore fundamentally unfair to him and his supporters, and the Court agreed. No ballots for that particular race will be counted, and the city must start over again, for that particular district, with a special election. This case is significant because it was issued by a federal court, not a state court. It is not always perfectly clear that problems of this kind have jurisdiction in federal court. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has said “a citizen’s right to a vote free of arbitrary impairment by state action has been judicially recognized as a right secured by the Constitution”, and this quote from Baker v Carr is cited in the recent Arizona order.