Blum v. Lanier
In Blum v. Lanier, 997 S.W.2d 259 (Tex. 1999), Blum was not seeking to enjoin an election but to prevent the City from using a vague and misleading description of a proposed charter amendment. Blum, 997 S.W.2d at 263.
While agreeing that Blum had no right to delay an election, which would interfere with the elective process in a manner contrary to the separation-of-powers doctrine, the Texas Supreme Court recognized that while an injunction that delays the election would be improper, "an injunction that facilitates the elective process may be appropriate." Blum, 997 S.W.2d at 263.
Therefore, "if the matter is one that can be judicially resolved in time to correct deficiencies in the ballot without delaying the election, then injunctive relief may provide a remedy that cannot be adequately obtained through an election contest." Id. at 263-64.
Blum was a qualified voter who had signed a petition proposing to amend the city of Houston's charter, attempted to enjoin the city from using allegedly misleading language on the ballot to describe the proposed amendment.
The court of appeals held that Blum had no standing to challenge the petition. On petition for review, however, the supreme court reversed the court of appeals' decision, holding that Blum had standing to challenge the ballot's wording and that the trial court had jurisdiction to issue an injunction forbidding the City's use of a misleading ballot where the injunction neither caused a delay in or cancelled the called election. Id.
In determining whether Blum had an adequate remedy at law that would preclude relief by injunction or mandamus, the court noted that unlike an injunction, a party cannot file an election contest until after the election. See TEX. ELEC. CODE ANN. 233.006(a) (Vernon Supp. 2000).
It then explained that because "separation of powers and the judiciary's deference to the legislative branch require that judicial power not be invoked to interfere with the elective process," injunctive relief was not available to enjoin the scheduled election. Id., 997 S.W.2d at 263.
The court, however, pointed out that Blum had not sought to enjoin the election; he had sought to prevent the City from using misleading language.
In holding that injunctive relief was available for such purposes, the court reasoned:
The City is correct that a possible consequence of an injunction against some aspect of the ordinance calling the election could be postponing the election. But what is possible is not necessarily inevitable. An injunction that delays the election would be improper, but an injunction that facilitates the elective process may be appropriate. . In short, if the matter is one that can be judicially resolved in time to correct deficiencies in the ballot without delaying the election, then injunctive relief may provide a remedy that cannot be adequately obtained through an election contest.
A misleading ballot proposition that requires an election contest and a second election delays the timely resolution of the proposed charter amendment no less than, and perhaps even more than, an improper injunction. Election results are often influenced by unique and complex factors existing at a particular point in time, and those who petition for an election may have strong reasons for desiring a particular election date....If defective wording can be corrected through injunctive relief, a remedy will be provided that is not available through a subsequent election contest. (Id., 997 S.W.2d 263-64.)
The Texas Supreme Court considered:
(1) whether a district court has jurisdiction to enjoin a city from using allegedly vague and misleading language on the ballot describing the proposed amendment to the city charter initiated by petition, and (2) whether a qualified voter who signs the petition that initiates the election has standing to seek the injunction against the ballot proposition the city drafted. See id. at 260.
The court answered "yes" to both questions. Id.
According to the supreme court, an injunction that delays an election would be improper, but an injunction that facilitates the elective process may be appropriate. See id. at 263.
"In short, if the matter is one that can be judicially resolved in time to correct deficiencies in the ballot without delaying the election, then injunctive relief may provide a remedy that cannot be adequately obtained through an election contest." Id. at 263-64.
The court considered, and rejected, the possibility that an election contest occurring after the election could serve as an adequate remedy at law. Id. at 264.
In sum, the plaintiff spearheaded a petition drive, and signed the petition, to propose an amendment to the City of Houston charter ending preferential treatment in public employment and contracting. 997 S.W.2d at 260, 261.
The City Council adopted an ordinance calling an election on the proposed amendment. Id. at 261. The plaintiff objected to the description of the amendment to be used on the ballot. Id.
The Texas Supreme Court ultimately held that the plaintiff had standing to seek injunctive relief forbidding the City's use of misleading language. See id. at 260-65.
The Court stated that petition signers, as sponsors of an initiative, possess a justiciable interest in the valid execution of the election that is distinct from the interest possessed by the general public. Id. at 262.