Saturday, December 20, 2014

Weighted Vote: The Debate Continues

At a Common Council Legal Committee meeting on Monday, which Gossips missed, Hudson's weighted vote was a topic of discussion. Assistant city attorney Dan Tuczinski expressed the opinion that "there is nothing obviously present which suggests that the application of the existing weighted voting format within the city is unconstitutional," but all the case law he cited to support that position had to do with counties not cities. John Mason reports on the discussion in today's Register-Star: "One-of-a-kind or unconstitutional?" 


  1. I posted the comment below on the Register Star on Mr. Mason's article. One of the reasons lawyers, let along laypersons, have such a struggle with this issue is that the mathematics is just so complex. At the end of the day, the reason Hudson's weighted voting system is so legally vulnerable, is that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get the mathematics to fit between the Scylla of the number of council votes each alderperson has, and the Charybdis of the voting power of each such alderperson, when applying the 10% deviation test from the population of each ward. I believe the law is quit clear that the 10% deviation test must be met for both concepts at once for there to be a reasonable chance that Hudson’s weighted voting system to be held Constitutional, assuming all the population and mapping errors were otherwise corrected, and the number of votes each alderperson has, revised accordingly.

    “Thank you for the article, Mr. Mason. Just to clarify, what I said in our interview is that there are two arithmetic concepts in play here, the number of votes each alderperson has on the Common Council ("Council Votes"), and the percentage of votes each alderperson casts that are the deciding vote as to the outcome of a Council vote ("Voting Power"). While the current weighted system, assuming the population figures Dr. Papayanopoulos used were correct (which they are not), fits within the 10% deviation test for purposes of Voting Power, it does not for purposes of the number of Council Votes each alderperson has.

    “The U.S. Supreme Court in Board of Estimate of City of New York v. Morris 489 U.S. 688 (1989) held that the appropriate deviation test is number of votes each elected representative has in the body in which such representative sits, not that representative’s Voting Power, so despite Hudson’s weighted voting system falling within the 10% deviation test for purposes of Voting Power if the populations assumed were correct, it remains unconstitutional because it does not hew to the 10% deviation test based on the number of Council Votes each alderman has. The New York courts still look to the Voting Power test however for purposes of assessing the fairness of a weighted voting system. Consequently, in my opinion the 10% deviation test must be met vis a vis both the number of Council Votes and Voting Power, which is extremely difficult to do, particularly if one rejects, as the Courts most probably will, the assumption that Dr. Papayanopoulos used in his arithmetic calculations that each of the two alderpersons from the same ward will vote randomly vis a vis each other.

    “Thus, Mr. Mason, you might want to correct your article to change your reference to “Voting Power” when quoting me to “Council Votes.” Thank you. “

  2. From a simpletons point of view, the 5th ward vs weighted vote has proven far too many times its ability to control the wishes of the other four wards.

    Thats not democratic by any interpretation.

  3. There is one key presumption that needs to be tested at this moment....will 5th Ward Alderman Bart Delaney support a change to the charter, and finally move this issue into the "resolved after too many years of debate" category? The assumption is he won't, but I don't think his opinion is on record anywhere. Can anyone confirm this?

  4. If the weighted vote remains unchanged, the inner city of Hudson must break fifty years of fifth ward mayors siding with the "boulevard bullies."