Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

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At issue in this case was a proposed ordinance establishing a minimum wage for Kansas City. The City of Kansas City filed an action seeking to have the trial court order the Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners and other election authorities serving the City to remove from the November 3, 2015 ballot the proposed ordinance, arguing that, if enacted, the ordinance would conflict with Mo. Rev. Stat. 285.055. Several individuals (collectively, the Committee), who proposed the ordinance using the initiative petition provisions of the Kansas City Charter, intervened in the City’s action, arguing that the proposal should remain on the ballot. The trial court entered judgment for the City and ordered that the measure be removed, concluding that the proposed ordinance was inconsistent with section 285.055. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the claims of the City and the Committee were premature. View "City of Kansas City v. Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners" on Justia Law

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Melvin Brown, who lost his Republic Primary election for the Utah House of Representatives by nine votes, contested the results of the primary election under Utah Code 20A-4-403(2) - Utah’s election contest statute - arguing that certain ballots were improperly disqualified. Logan Wilde, the winner of the primary election, argued that the election contest statute is an unconstitutional expansion of the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction. The Supreme Court agreed and issued a per curiam order holding that Utah Code 20A-4-403(2)(a)(ii), which purports to provide the Supreme Court with original jurisdiction over multi-county election contests, was unconstitutional. The Court then issued this opinion to more fully explain the basis for the order, holding that section 20A-4-403(2)(a)(ii) cannot extend the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to adjudicate multi-county election disputes, and that provision of the elections code is struck as unconstitutional. View "Brown v. Cox" on Justia Law

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Petitioners Representative Donald Turner, Jr. and Senator Joseph Benning, sought to enjoin respondent Governor Peter Shumlin (whose last day in office was January 5, 2017), from appointing a successor to the office held by Associate Justice John Dooley, whose term was set to expire April 1, 2017. Justice Dooley did not file a declaration with the Office of the Secretary of State indicating that he would seek retention for another term beyond March 31, 2017, the last day of his then-current six-year term. On December 21, 2016, Representative Turner filed a petition for quo warranto contesting the Governor's authority to appoint Justice Dooley's successor, asserting that although the Vermont Constitution authorized the Governor to fill a vacancy on the Court, no vacancy would exist until Justice Dooley left office nearly three months after Governor Shumlin left his office. The Supreme Court concluded that the Vermont Constitution did not authorize the Governor to appoint an Associate Justice in anticipation of a vacancy that was not expected to occur until the expiration of the justice's term of office, which would occur months after the Governor left office. "In so holding, we emphasize that our decision today rests entirely upon the meaning and purpose of the Vermont Constitution. We reach our decision having in mind the overarching principles of our democracy: the integrity of our governing institutions and the people's confidence in them. The particular identity of the parties or potential nominees to the Office of Associate Justice have no bearing on our decision. Our sole responsibility in this, as in any, case is to apply the law evenhandedly, regardless of the identity of the litigants, the sensitivity of the issues, or the passing political interests of the moment." View "Turner v. Shumlin" on Justia Law

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Johnson filed a referendum petition seeking to place on the November 2016, general election ballot the question of imposing term limits on the elected office of Broadview village president. The Broadview electoral board invalidated the referendum as vague and ambiguous “because it is not clear whether the Referendum applies retroactively as well as prospectively.” The circuit court concluded the referendum was self-executing, not vague or ambiguous, and ordered the referendum to appear on the ballot. The appellate court affirmed. The proposition appeared on the ballot, but the results were not released, in compliance with an appellate court injunction. The Illinois Supreme Court ordered that the injunctive order be vacated and took judicial notice that the referendum was approved, then affirmed. While the proposition did not provide an express date marking the relevant timeframe for the prior terms of office, it is directed at that those “who seek election to or hold the office of Village President” beginning with the April 2017 election who have “been previously elected” to that office for two consecutive full terms. When read in its entirety, the language adequately explains that the initial starting point for determining whether candidates were “previously elected” village president is the April 2017 election. View "Johnson v. Ames" on Justia Law

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After declaring his write-in candidacy for President of the United States for the 2016 general election, Steve Carlson filed a request with the Secretary of State asking him to count the votes cast for his candidacy. The Secretary of State refused to accept the request because Carlson did not “include the name of a candidate for vice-president of the United States” with the request pursuant to Minn. Stat. 204B.09, subdivision 3(b). Carlson then filed this petition with the Supreme Court asking the Court to direct the Secretary of State to accept his request because requiring him to name a vice-presidential candidate burdens the First Amendment associational rights of write-in candidates and the voters who support those candidates. The Supreme Court denied the petition, holding that the requirement for write-in candidates to designate a vice-presidential candidate does not violate the associational rights protected by the First Amendment. View "Carlson v. Simon" on Justia Law

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Petitioner filed a petition pursuant to Minn. Stat. 204B.44 requesting an order directing the Minnesota Secretary of State (Respondent) to remove the name of Robert Barrett from the ballot for State Representative for Legislative District 32B at the general election held in November 2016, alleging that Barrett did not reside in the district for the six months immediately preceding the 2016 general election. The referee to whom the matter was referred found that the evidence supported removing Barrett’s name from the ballot. The Supreme Court granted the petition to the extent it sought an order declaring that Barrett was ineligible to hold the office he sought but denied the petition to the extent it sought an order declaring that Barrett’s name be removed from the 2016 general election ballot for the same office, as Minnesota does does not provide for the removal of a candidate’s name from the ballot under the circumstances of this case. View "Monaghen v. Simon" on Justia Law

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The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), intended “to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education,” 20 U.S.C. 1400(d)(1)(A), permits parents and legal guardians to recover reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs if they prevail in certain statutorily prescribed proceedings. In calculating a fee award, courts consider the “number of hours reasonably expended in litigation” and the “reasonable hourly rate,” determined in part by reference to the prevailing market rate for attorneys’ services. The plaintiffs, having prevailed in IDEA proceedings, sought attorneys’ fees and costs related to those proceedings and an award of “fees-on-fees” for work done in connection with their pursuit of fees for the IDEA proceedings. The district court granted both requests, but did not award the full amounts requested. The D.C. Circuit reversed in part, agreeing that the district court erred in excluding certain hours spent at “settlement conferences.” The court upheld determinations that the IDEA matters were not “complex federal litigation” to which the Laffey Matrix should apply and to apply the same rate to the initial fee and fees-on-fees awards. Plaintiffs forfeited claims raised for the first time on appeal: that their affidavits independently demonstrated a prevailing IDEA market rate that aligns with the Laffey Matrix and that the rates awarded were insufficient to attract competent counsel. View "Reed v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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Petitioners sought review of the Attorney General’s certified ballot title for Initiative Petition (IP) 1 (2018), contending that the “yes” and “no” result statements and the summary did not comply with the requirements set out in ORS 250.035(2). IP 1 was a proposed amendment to the Oregon Constitution that, if approved, would prohibit public funding for abortions, “except when medically necessary or as may be required by federal law.” Section 1 of IP 1 set out that general prohibition, and Section 2 set out several related definitions. Section 3 set out two exceptions to the prohibition in Section 1. Section 4 provided that nothing in the proposed amendment “shall be construed as prohibiting the expenditure of public funds to pay for health insurance,” so long as “such funds are not spent to pay or reimburse for the costs of performing abortions.” The Oregon Supreme Court considered petitioners’ arguments regarding the “yes” and “no” result statements in the certified title, and concluded that those statements substantially complied with statutory requirements. However, the Court agreed with one of petitioners’ arguments challenging the summary, and therefore referred the summary back to the Attorney General for modification. View "Jimerson v. Rosenblum" on Justia Law

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The State of New Hampshire requires that political parties seeking to have their nominees listed on statewide election ballots demonstrate that one of its candidates received at least four percent of the statewide vote for Governor or United States Senator in the most recent prior statewide election. Alternatively, a party must submit nomination papers signed by a number of registered voters at least equal to three percent of the total votes cast in the most recent state general election. In 2014, New Hampshire reduced the time period during which New Hampshire law allows parties to gather nomination signatures and submit nomination papers from twenty-one months to seven months. In this suit, the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire (LPNH) claimed that the shortened window for gathering signatures violated its First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The district court concluded that the undisputed facts did not establish a violation of LPNH’s asserted constitutional rights. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that New Hampshire’s regulations are a constitutional exercise of the state’s power over the election process. View "Libertarian Party of New Hampshire v. Gardner" on Justia Law

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The petitioners sought to place on the ballot a proposition that, if approved by the voters, would impose mayoral term limits. If approved, the proposition would prevent the incumbent mayor from running for reelection. The County Clerk refused to place the proposition on the ballot because Calumet City’s current administration already had placed three propositions on the ballot. State law, 10 ILCS 5/28‐1, permitted no more than three propositions in any single election. The administration’s ballot initiatives appeared to target specifically Alderman Jones, who had announced he was running for mayor. Jones and the petitioners sought injunctive relief, claiming violations of the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause, and the Illinois Constitution. The district court denied a preliminary injunction. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The request for injunctive relief was not timely and considerable harm would have been visited on the electoral system if the requested relief had been granted. There was evidence that the petitioners knew that the statute displaced their ballot initiative by the end of June, but delayed in filing suit until September 15. Jones’s individual claims were not ripe; Jones could not challenge the constitutionality of the propositions unless they were enacted by the referendum process. View "Jones v. Qualkinbush" on Justia Law