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Court Order Declares Lincoln School Committee Election a “Nullity”

Posted: September 16, 2004|Category: Rights of Candidates Voting Rights

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A consent judgment was entered in Rhode Island Superior Court today, formally declaring null and void the “preliminary” election held on Tuesday for two non-partisan at-large school committee seats in Lincoln. The consent judgment follows a temporary restraining order issued on Tuesday by Judge Daniel Procaccini against certification of those election results in an ACLU lawsuit challenging the legality of the election.

In 2002, the Town adopted a charter provision adding two non-partisan at-large seats to the school committee, to be voted on in November. However, in May of this year, the Town Council adopted an ordinance establishing a September primary run-off system if more than four people ran for the new seats. With five qualified candidates running for the at-large seats, the Town held a “preliminary” non-partisan election on Tuesday as part of a Democratic primary, prompting the ACLU’s challenge.

The emergency ACLU lawsuit, filed on Monday by volunteer attorney Annie Goldberg, argued that the Town had no authority to hold a “preliminary” election to weed out candidates, and that all five qualified candidates should be eligible for the November ballot.

Under the consent judgment entered today with agreement of the Town and the ACLU, the results of the Tuesday election for the school committee seats is declared “a nullity,” all five candidates for the seats will be placed on the November ballot, and the Town ordinance establishing the preliminary election process for those seats is declared “invalid as inconsistent with the Town Charter.”

The ACLU’s Goldberg said today: “Today’s consent order vindicates the voting rights of all the residents of Lincoln. I am pleased that the Town has recognized the impropriety of Tuesday’s school committee election, and that all voters will have an opportunity in November to decide who should represent them on the school committee.”

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