Judge sides with city in term limit ballot dispute

- Fully absorbed in a tightly contested mayoral race and the incendiary battle over the HERO initiative, Houston voters and the media for that matter, paid far less attention to a measure limiting the terms of the City's elected officials.

When it passed, critics called foul.

"They shouldn't try to rig the outcome by using deceptive language that misleads people in exercising their right to vote," said attorney Andy Taylor.

A lawsuit quickly followed alleging ballot language tricked voters into believing they were limiting politicians maximum time in office when in fact the measure extended it from three two year terms to two four year terms.
But today Judge Tad Halbach ruled the language extended to voters was clear enough to pass legal muster.

"The key thing was he said that the language was valid and that the language was clear," said Mayor Sylvester Turner.

And while the city won this initial battle it could still lose the war.

That's because the judge also decided to allow attorney Taylor to intervene in a case that's now positioned to move much more rapidly to higher courts where the City has already lost multiple cases involving defective ballot language.

The lawyer landing those blows was Andy Taylor.

"Frankly, I think that the City of Houston is on double secret probation as far as the appellate courts looking at them and I think when the appellate court sees this it's not going to be even close. They are going to say this ballot language was misleading and that this election is void as a result," said Taylor.

That's why those battling the city called today's defeat merely the necessary foundation for final victory.
But Fox 26 legal analyst Chris Tritico believes with today's ruling lawyers for City Hall have the upper hand. 

"I think the trial court got it right. The ballot language could have been worded a little better, but it's not worded bad enough to over turn an entire election over," said Tritico.

If the City fails to prevail at the next level current officeholders like Mayor Turner may have to stand for election in 2017 instead of 2019.

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