Should Intention of Voters Be Readily and Freely Expressed and Ascertainable In Adopting a Charter by a City ?

In Horn v. Allen (1924) 195 Cal. 121 231 P. 1001, the voters of the City of Los Angeles were presented with a proposal to adopt a charter. The proposed charter called for election of 11 council members at large. As an alternative proposition, the voters were presented with a proposal to divide the city into 15 districts, with council members elected from their districts. Both proposals were adopted, with adoption of the charter receiving the higher affirmative vote. The city council then refused to give effect to the alternative proposition, reasoning that the adoption of the charter by the higher affirmative vote rendered the alternative proposition ineffective. (Id. at pp. 123-125.) In resolving the issue, Horn said that "if the form of the ballot presented to the voters was such as to permit a free expression on their part of a preference for the at-large plan of councilmanic representation on the one hand or for the district plan on the other, and the intention of the voters be readily ascertained and determined, we feel impelled to give full effect to the very large majority vote in favor of the district plan of representation." ( Horn, supra, 195 Cal. at p. 129.) As to that question, Horn "approached the matter from the standpoint of the voter" (ibid.) and found that the intention of the voters was readily and freely expressed and ascertainable. (Id. at p. 130.) Voters who wished to adopt the charter and retain at-large elections could vote yes on the first proposition and no on the second. Voters who wished to adopt the charter but desired to incorporate district elections could vote yes on both propositions. Thus, Horn found no fatal conflict and gave effect to the charter, as amended by the second proposition. ( Id. at p. 132.)