Breaking: Mayor Craig's Administration Loses in Court - Granite Grok

Breaking: Mayor Craig’s Administration Loses in Court

Manchester NH City Hall

Breaking news in Manchester that will surely interrupt tomorrow’s Municipal Elections and cause some confusion.

Judge David Anderson of Hillsborough Superior Court handed down his decision this morning regarding Mark Warden v. Matthew Normand in his official capacity as City Clerk and City of Manchester. The City lost.

The decision grants injunctive relief for the plaintiff, Mark Warden, by ordering the City to print Warden’s name on the ballot for the School Charter Commission. If they “cannot accomplish this directive in time for Tuesday’s election, they must
postpone and reschedule the election.”

During Friday’s hearing on this matter, the City argued that it would be ‘impractical and impossible’ to re-print the ballots in time for Tuesday’s election.

While granting the injunction (and any subsequent delay of the election that may follow) may cause last-minute confusion and lower turnout at the polls at any rescheduled election, “the public interest will be served by placing on the ballot the name of a candidate who meets the qualifications both for nomination and for holding office.” Payne v. Fawkes, No. 2014-053, 2014-055, 2014 WL 4499559, at *9 (D.V.I. Sept. 12, 2014). The Court is mindful of the well-accepted “democracy canon,” which states that “[a]ll election statutes should be liberally interpreted in favor of the right to vote according to one’s belief or free choice.” Wilson v. Kennedy, 86 N.E.2d 722, 726 (Ohio 1949); see also Schneller v. Town of Bedford, Hillsborough Cnty. Super. Ct. (Northern District), No. 216-2017-CV-00196 (March 14, 2017) (Order, Kissinger, J.) (citing democracy canon). Because Plaintiff’s right to be a candidate in the election is so closely related to the right to vote, denying Plaintiff the opportunity to be on the ballot impacts the right to vote of the citizens of Manchester to their detriment.

Ruling, Docket No. 216-2019-CV-00935

What follows next will be one of two options. The City will either reprint ALL of the School Charter Commission ballots with Mark Warden’s name on them, or it will have to nullify all the results of the Charter Commission ballots and reschedule.

Related: Interview with Plaintiff, Mark Warden

When can they reschedule it? Well, if you read the statutes, they can not. The law was passed stating the City shall hold these elections in conjunction with the November Municipal elections. The statute does not authorize them to reschedule to a different date.

The ruling comes as a surprise to many, despite the fact that the Judge appeared to be on the Plaintiff’s side since the beginning of the hearing. The City clearly violated the statute written to allow this special Charter Commission, and the Judge took them to task on it.

Related: A Matter of Equity, Not Law

The final outcome in the Manchester School Charter Commission is still unclear. Will Patrick Long and the legislature have to take the bill back up and amend it to allow for a new election date? We’ll let you know.