On Wednesday, June 1, 2022, the Election Law Clinic at Harvard Law School filed suit on behalf of Citizens Project, Colorado Latinos Vote, the League of Women Voters of the Pikes Peak Region and the Black/Latino Leadership Coalition, challenging the City of Colorado Springs' choice to hold elections for City Council and Mayor in April of odd-numbered years. Our lawsuit calls for City Council elections to be held in November.
We filed a lawsuit because we believe the timing of our municipal elections violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Voting Rights Act is designed to allow people to challenge election policies that discriminate - intentionally or not - against minority communities. Throughout history, non-white residents of Colorado Springs have been excluded from the political process through discriminatory voting schemes. The impact of that is still felt today. Non-white community members experience greater rates of poverty, police brutality and vast education disparities. In part because of these factors, the voter turnout of non-white voters in Colorado Springs is lower across all city, state and federal elections. This difference in voter participation is known as a "racial disparity".
Colorado Springs' April municipal election timing impacts non-white voter turnout far more than it impacts white voter turnout and poses a discriminatory burden on people of color. Election practices that pose a discriminatory burden to people of color are prohibited by the Voting Rights Act even if the City Council had no intention of discriminating. Non-white, registered voters are only half as likely as white registered voters to vote in the April election. This turnout gap closes dramatically for November elections.
The practice of holding elections in April leads to a government that is less accountable to communities of color, who are far underrepresented in City government. Over the last decade, more than 90% of the successful candidates for City Council and Mayor were white. Not a single Hispanic or Black resident has prevailed in at-large City Council elections. By depressing minority turnout, the odd timing of elections makes it harder for minority communities to elect candidates that are responsive to their needs.
There is no good reason for Colorado Springs to hold elections in April. Only 3 of the 25 most populous Colorado cities hold elections in April; the vast majority hold elections in November. Holding elections in April saves the city no time, money or work. For groups like ours, by moving spring elections to the fall, our volunteer time and work can be better focused on November elections.
At the end of the day, we want the Court to prevent Colorado Springs from holding non-November elections in the future. Holding elections in November will Make Democracy Work better for everyone in Colorado Springs. It will make a City government more responsive to everyone and especially the communities who have been shut out in the past.
We have posted the lawsuit on our website under Documents so please take a look when you have a moment. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.
Thank you for your support and dedication!!
Shelly Roehrs, Spokesperson
League of Women Voters of the Pikes Peak Region