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In this action for declaratory and injunctive relief, four registered voters residing in North Smithfield, Rhode Island (the Town) seek to compel the holding of an election in November of 2001. The plaintiffs claim that the Town’s charter requires such an election and that the refusal of the defendants – the Town and various Town plenipotentiaries – to comply with the charter abridges the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights to vote and to associate. *fn2 In an effort to parry this thrust, the defendants make four main arguments. First, they question the justification for federal court intervention. Second, they point to a 1998 referendum, approved by the voters of North Smithfield, which switched municipal elections to even-numbered years starting in the year 2002, and assert that this vote erases any need for an election in 2001. Third, the defendants claim that the voters ratified the plan to forgo the 2001 election during the 1999 election (in which the ballot mentioned lengthened terms for certain elected officials). Finally, the defendants interpose a series of equitable defenses – waiver, estoppel, and the like.

The district court found no merit in the defendants’ contentions, see Bonas v. Town of North Smithfield, No. 01-241, slip op. at 11-12 (D.R.I. Aug. 20, 2001), and ordered the Town to hold a regular election for town council and school committee in 2001. On this expedited appeal, the defendants renew the same arguments that the district court rejected. We heard oral argument on September 14, 2001, and ruled ore tenus that the Town must hold the election in question. This opinion explains the basis for our ruling. All applicable time periods (e.g., the time for filing petitions for rehearing or rehearing en banc) shall run from the date of this opinion rather than from the date of our oral advisory.

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