California Appeals Court Hears Lawsuit Against San Diego City Council for Breach of Voter Trust

SAN DIEGO - July 12, 2023 — Today the California Appeals Court heard arguments in a case brought by Alliance San Diego and voters against the San Diego City Council for breaching voter trust. What is at issue is who decides an election — voters or politicians. Alliance San Diego argues that it's the former. Also at issue is whether the rules of an election as outlined to voters matter, or whether those rules can be changed post-election. The Court is anticipated to decide the case within the next 90 days.

“Our case is about election integrity, and honoring the state and city laws that govern the rules of an election,” said Andrea Guerrero, Executive Director of Alliance San Diego, a Petitioner in the case. “We brought this case to hold the San Diego City Council accountable for its abuse of power in violating those rules by delaying an election outcome and then overriding the decision of San Diego voters. If the City Council is excused for its actions, it will open the door for them to suspend the outcome of any election they don’t like, for as long as they want, and then change the decision. Democracy is about the process and protecting the people in it from the power of the government. That is our work at Alliance San Diego: creating a more inclusive democracy where everyone’s human rights are respected, including voting.”

The appeal comes after a San Diego Superior Court Judge ruled in 2022 that the City Council had abused its power in delaying the results of the 2020 Measure C election. Alliance San Diego sued and won its initial lawsuit, arguing the City Council had violated fundamental due process in both delaying the outcome and changing the election results by changing the rules long after the election was over. Alliance contends that the Superior Court Judge’s ruling was correct and should stand to protect the voting rights of San Diegans and the integrity of democracy. 

“Election manipulation is an insidious action that breaks down voter faith and trust in our democracy,” said Dr. Isidro D. Ortiz, Alliance San Diego Board President, Voter, and Petitioner. “For years, our movement has fought to protect the people’s right to vote and decide elections without interference. It is the people who should decide elections, not politicians. Our city leaders must do the work to rebuild trust in and protect our election process so that all of us have a say in our future.”

In April 2020, the San Diego City Council refused to declare the voter results of Measure C — a special tax and bond measure to fund primarily the expansion of the convention center — in a timely manner. California state law requires a city council to declare all election results within 30 days. The City Council waited more than one year. State law also requires cities to abide by their own laws, such as in this case when the City Council passed an ordinance establishing the terms for this election, which it then ignored. 

Instead, the City Council attempted to change the terms of the election long after votes had been counted. Before declaring the outcome of the election, six members of the City Council voted to strike language from a resolution stating that Measure C had been defeated — which is what voters had decided — and instead wrote that it had passed. At the time, only Councilmembers Monica Montgomery, Vivian Moreno, and Barbara Bry believed that this was a violation of voter trust and voted against it.

“We elect leaders in San Diego to uphold our democracy and process, not manipulate and erode it,” said Michael McConnell, San Diego Voter and Petitioner. “Because of actions like this that attempt to subvert our election process, voters continue to lose faith and trust in our political system and elected officials. We need our leaders to support fairness and transparency across all elections.”


Alliance San Diego is a non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)(3) community organization that is building collective power to create a more inclusive democracy, one where all people can participate with dignity in an environment of harmony, safety, equality and justice. We pursue this mission by developing leaders, engaging the community, advocating for policies, communicating strategically, and protecting human rights.