Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

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Respondents submitted a petition to the Minneapolis Charter Commission to amend the City Charter to establish a local minimum-wage standard in the City of Minneapolis. The City Clerk certified that the petition met the statutory signature requirements. Reasoning that the minimum-wage amendment was legislature in nature and that the City Charter does not provide for voter initiatives for the passage of ordinances by a ballot referendum, the City Attorney recommended that the City Council decline to place the provision on the November 2016 general election ballot. Thereafter, the City Council voted not to include the wage amendment on the ballot for the general election. Respondents filed a petition asking the district court to order the City Council to place the proposed charter amendment before the voters on the ballot, arguing that the City had a duty to put the proposed amendment on the ballot. The district court granted the petition, concluding that the proposed charter amendment was the proper subject of a citizen initiative. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred in granting the petition because Minneapolis residents do not have legislative and policymaking authority under the City Charter. View "Vasseur v. City of Minneapolis" on Justia Law

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On the fifth time before the First Circuit, Plaintiff, a United States citizen-resident of Puerto Rico, and his fellow plaintiffs challenged the denial of the right of Puerto Rico citizens to vote for representatives to the U.S. House of Representatives and their right to have five Puerto Rico representatives apportioned to that body. Plaintiffs further contended that the district court erred in refusing to convene a three-judge court to adjudicate their claims. When Plaintiff first raised the issue of congressional representation, a panel majority concluded that they were bound by past circuit decisions to find that Plaintiffs were not constitutionally entitled to the claimed right by means other than those specified for achieving statehood or by amendment. The First Circuit, noting that it was bound by precedent, affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in refusing to convene and three-judge court and dismissing the case on the merits; but (2) the three-judge-court issue should be reconsidered by the full court in an en banc rehearing of this case. View "Igartua v. Obama" on Justia Law

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Petitioners filed a petition for a writ of quo warrant challenging Representative Calvin K.Y. Say’s authority to hold office as representative of the Twentieth District of Hawaii. The circuit court granted Say’s motion to dismiss the petition for nonjusticiability. Petitioners appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the law of the case doctrine does not foreclose Say’s arguments; (2) the legitimacy of Say’s qualifications to hold office presents a nonjusticiable political question; (3) the Attorney General was not prohibited from representing the House of Representatives against Petitioners; and (4) the grant of permissive intervention to the House of Representatives was proper. View "Hussey v. Say" on Justia Law

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Judge Daniel Viramontes wrote a letter dated March 10, 2016 to New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, informing her of his intent to resign as district court judge of Division 4 of the Sixth Judicial District Court, effective August 26, 2016. The Sixth Judicial District Court Nominating Committee met and submitted the names of Petitioner Edward Hand and Real Party in Interest Jarod Hofacket to Governor Martinez for her consideration. Governor Martinez appointed Hofacket by letter dated October 21, 2016, stating that his term would begin on November 4, 2016. Hofacket was to serve until the next general election (here, November 8, 2016). Either Hofacket or his successor, whoever was elected during the upcoming general election, would hold office until the expiration of the term held by Judge Viramontes, at which time he or she would be eligible for a nonpartisan retention election. Petitioners did not challenge Governor Martinez’s appointment of Hofacket. Instead, they filed a petition for writ of mandamus, injunction, and declaratory judgment asking the New Mexico Supreme Court to declare that Secretary of State Brad Winter acted arbitrarily, capriciously, and in violation of law by placing Hofacket on the November 8, 2016 general election ballot. The issue presented for the Supreme Court was thus reduced to whether the Secretary of State could place on the general election ballot the names of political party nominees to fill a vacancy created by a district court judge who resigned effective after a primary election but more than fifty-six days prior to the general election. The Court answered "yes," because under NMSA 1978, Section 1-8-8(A) (2015), the vacancy occurred for a public office that was not included in the governor’s election proclamation, and pursuant to Article VI, Sections 35 and 36 of the New Mexico Constitution, the judicial vacancy was required to be filled at the next general election, provided that the political parties file their list of nominees with the Secretary of State more than fifty-six days before the general election. View "Hand v. Winter" on Justia Law

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Arizona enacted a statute, Ariz. Rev. Stat. 16-122, 16-135, 16-584, in 1970, which required each voter who votes in person to cast his or her ballot at the precinct polling station at which the voter was registered to vote. Plaintiff and others challenge the precinct vote rule on the grounds that it violated the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), 52 U.S.C. 10301, and unjustifiably burdened their election rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. After the district court denied plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction, plaintiff filed an emergency appeal. The court found that the precinct vote rule, as administered by Arizona, probably does not impermissibly burden minority voters by giving them less opportunity than non-minorities to participate in the political process. But even assuming, without deciding, that it imposes a cognizable burden on minority voters, plaintiff has not shown that Arizona’s enactment of the precinct vote rule is linked to social and historical conditions that have or currently produce racial discrimination against minority voters. Therefore, the court found that the district court correctly denied relief for the claimed violation of the VRA. The court also affirmed the district court's finding that the constitutional violation claims failed because the precinct vote rule, when considered together with other options available to Arizona voters, imposes only a minimal burden upon minority and majority voters. The court explained that such a minimal burden is sufficiently justified by Arizona’s interests in effective administration of voting in the State. View "Feldman v. Arizona Secretary of State's Office" on Justia Law

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Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente submitted a nomination petition to the Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, seeking to have his name placed upon the ballot for the 2016 general election as an independent candidate for President of the United States. That same day, De La Fuente also filed notices of candidacy for his slate of presidential electors. The Secretary of State rejected the notices of candidacy because they were submitted eleven days after the deadline set forth in OCGA 21-2-132 (d) (1). The Secretary of State also rejected the nomination petition, finding that the counties had verified only 2,964 of the signatures submitted with the petition, a number far short of the 7,500 verified signatures needed to validate the petition pursuant to a recent federal court order. After a superior court dismissed De La Fuente's subsequent lawsuit, the matter was appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court. Finding no reversible error in the superior court's judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of De La Fuente's suit. View "De La Fuente v. Kemp" on Justia Law

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Leslie Feldman and others filed suit challenging Arizona House Bill 2023 (H.B. 2023), which precludes individuals who do not fall into one of several exceptions (e.g., election officials, mail carriers, family members, household members, and specified caregivers) from collecting early ballots from another person. Plaintiff argues that this state statute violates section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 52 U.S.C. 10301, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the First Amendment because, among other things, it disproportionately and adversely impacts minorities, unjustifiably burdens the right to vote, and interferes with the freedom of association. The district court denied plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction and plaintiff filed this emergency interlocutory appeal. The court concluded that it has jurisdiction over this interlocutory appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1292(a)(1). The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding plaintiff was unlikely to succeed on her Voting Rights Act claim. In this case, the district court did not clearly err in concluding that plaintiff adduced no evidence showing that H.B. 2023 would have an impact on minorities different than the impact on non-minorities, let alone that the impact would result in less opportunity for minorities to participate in the political process as compared to non-minorities. The court concluded that the district court did not clearly err in finding that H.B. 2023 imposed a minimal burden on voters’ Fourteenth Amendment right to vote, in finding that Arizona asserted sufficiently weighty interests justifying the limitation, and in ultimately concluding that plaintiff failed to establish that she was likely to succeed on the merits of her Fourteenth Amendment challenge. The court also concluded that ballot collection is not expressive conduct implicating the First Amendment, but even if it were, Arizona has an important regulatory interest justifying the minimal burden that H.B. 2023 imposes on freedom of association. Therefore, the district court did not err in concluding that the plaintiff was unlikely to succeed on the merits of her First Amendment claim. In this case, plaintiff is not only unlikely to prevail on the merits, but, as the district court concluded, her interest in avoiding possible irreparable harm does not outweigh Arizona’s and the public’s mutual interests in the enforcement of H.B. 2023 pending final resolution of this case. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction. View "Feldman v. Arizona Secretary of State's Office" on Justia Law

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Michigan law forbids voters from exposing their marked ballots to others, Mich. Comp. Laws 168.738(2). The penalty for violation is that the ballot will be rejected and the offender not allowed to vote. Crookston sought a preliminary injunction to prevent the state from enforcing the law in the upcoming election so that he could take a “ballot selfie” with his cell phone and post it on social media. In late October, the district court granted his motion. The Sixth Circuit stayed the order, stating that, just 10 days before the November 2016 election, “we will not accept his invitation to suddenly alter Michigan’s venerable voting protocols, especially when he could have filed this lawsuit long ago.” The court questioned the likelihood of success on the merits, stating that the ban on photography at the polls seems to be a content-neutral regulation that reasonably protects voters’ privacy and honors a long tradition of protecting the secret ballot. It also is not clear whether a ban on ballot selfies “significantly impinges” Crookston’s First Amendment rights. View "Crookston v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Residents of Orem City and Provo City (collectively, Petitioners) sought to have a referendum placed on the November 2017 ballot. Both Orem City and Provo City refused, concluding that the resolutions could not be referred to the voters as a matter of law. Petitioners sought an extraordinary writ ordering that the referenda be placed on the ballot and filed their petitions in accordance with Utah Code 20A-7-607(4)(a). The Supreme Court denied the petitions without prejudice, holding that Petitioners failed to carry their burden of establishing under Utah R. App. P. 19(b)(4)-(5) that it would be impractical or inappropriate for them to file their petitions in the district court. View "Anderson v. Provo City" on Justia Law

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Floyd McKee contested the election after he was defeated by Joe Chandler in the Democratic primary run-off election for District 5 Supervisor of Clay County. After the Clay County Democratic Executive Committee (CCDEC) ruled in favor of Chandler, McKee filed a petition for judicial review with the Clay County Circuit Court. Chandler filed a motion to dismiss McKee’s petition, arguing that it was not timely filed. This interlocutory appeal stems from the circuit court’s denial of Chandler’s motion to dismiss. Finding that the circuit court erred in failing to grant Chandler’s motion to dismiss, the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s judgment and remanded this case back to the circuit court with instructions to dismiss McKee’s petition for judicial review. View "Chandler v. McKee" on Justia Law