Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

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The Seventh Circuit denied petitions for initial hearing en banc in appeals concerning Wisconsin’s law requiring voters to have qualifying photo identification. The court noted that Wisconsin will start printing absentee ballots this month and that it is unlikely that qualified electors will be unable to vote under Wisconsin’s current procedures. The state had assured the court that temporary credentials will be available to all qualified persons who seek them. Wisconsin has enacted a rule that requires the Division of Motor Vehicles to mail automatically a free photo ID to anyone who comes to DMV one time and initiates the free ID process. No one must present documents, that, for some, have proved challenging to acquire; no one must show a birth certificate, or proof of citizenship, so the urgency needed to justify an initial en banc hearing has not been shown. The state adequately informed the general public of the plan and the district court​ has the authority to monitor compliance. View "One Wis. Inst., Inc. v. Thomsen" on Justia Law

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Frank Tamburri seeks the Libertarian Party nomination for United States Senator in the 2016 election. Pursuant to A.R.S. 16-314, Tamburri timely filed a nomination petition which included 4,205 signatures. Robert Graham, Chairman of the Arizona Republican Party, filed suit challenging the validity of 2,845 signatures and sought to exclude Tamburri’s name from the Libertarian primary election ballot. On appeal, Tamburri challenges the trial court’s order excluding his name from the Libertarian primary election ballot for the office of United States Senator. Tamburri concedes that he did not collect at least 3,034 signatures from “qualified signers” under A.R.S. 16-321 and -322. As a preliminary matter, the court rejected Tamburri's procedural arguments. The court held that the signature requirements of H.B. 2608 do not severely burden the ability of candidates to exercise their First Amendment rights where Tamburri has failed to show that the increased signature requirements, either facially or as applied to him, would prevent “reasonably diligent” minor party candidates from gaining ballot access. The court concluded that the 0.25 percent signature requirement is rationally related to the state’s legitimate interest in ensuring that candidates who appear on the general election ballot have some significant modicum of support. Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court’s judgment excluding Tamburri’s name from the primary ballot. View "Graham v. Tamburri" on Justia Law

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The Libertarian Party filed suit, claiming that Kentucky law unconstitutionally burdens First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to freedom of political association and equal protection by categorizing the Libertarian Party and Constitution Party as “political groups,” which must petition to list their candidates for state and local office on election ballots, rather than as “political parties” or “political organizations,” which enjoy “blanket” ballot access for all the candidates they nominate (Ky. Rev. Stat. 118.015). The district court concluded, and the Sixth Circuit affirmed, that Kentucky’s three-tiered ballot-access scheme is a constitutional means of exercising the Commonwealth’s power to regulate elections. The court found the burden imposed by the ballot-access scheme “less than severe,” so that strict scrutiny did not apply, but not so “minimal” as to warrant rational basis review. Engaging in “flexible scrutiny,” the court found that Kentucky has an important interest in ensuring that candidates demonstrate a “significant modicum of support,” strong enough to justify the scheme. View "Libertarian Party of Ky. v. Grimes" on Justia Law

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The Illinois Constitution of 1970 may be amended by constitutional convention; the General Assembly; or ballot initiatives, Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIV, sects. 1, 2, 3. Ballot initiatives may only be used for amendments directed at “structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV,” pertaining to Illinois’s legislative branch. The ballot initiative at issue addresses redistricting to redraw the legislative and representative districts following each federal decennial census. In May 2016, SIM filed with the Secretary of State a petition proposing the amendment of article IV, section 3, to replace the current system for redrawing Illinois’s legislative and representative districts. The General Assembly’s role would be eliminated from the process, with primary responsibility for drawing legislative and representative districts falling to a new “Independent Redistricting Commission” selected through a process involving limited legislative input. The State Board of Elections determined that the petition received more than the required number of valid signatures. Days after submission of the petition, a “taxpayer’s suit” was filed (735 ILCS 5/11-303), seeking to enjoin the disbursal of public funds to determine the petition’s compliance with the Election Code, 10 ILCS 5/1-1. The circuit court found that the petition did not comply with requirements for inclusion on the ballot. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, citing “the plain language of article XIV, section 3.” View "Hooker v. Illinois State Board of Elections" on Justia Law

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The Magoffin County Board of Elections (the Board) and its members in their official capacities (Carson Montgomery, Susie Salyer, and Justin Williams, and Magoffin County Clerk Renee Arnett-Shepherd), and Democratic candidate for judge executive Charles Hardin, appealed a Court of Appeals decision to affirmed the setting aside the results of the November 4, 2014 election for Magoffin County judge executive and declaring the office vacant. The officially-tabulated vote count revealed that Republican candidate, Appellee John Montgomery, lost the election to Hardin by a mere twenty-eight votes. Montgomery filed this action to challenge the election results. Appellants contended: (1) that the trial court and the Court of Appeals nullified the election on grounds that were not set forth in Montgomery's petition to challenge the election, and thus deprived them of fair notice of such grounds; (2) that contrary to the trial court's conclusions, the election was conducted in substantial compliance with the applicable election laws; (3) that any violations of applicable election laws that occurred in the election were de minimus and had no impact on the result of the election; and (3) that Montgomery's evidence was insufficient to prove the illegalities he alleged and insufficient to prove that the result of the election was affected by any irregularities and improprieties which may have occurred. After review, the Kentucky Supreme Court concluded that Appellant Hardin was entitled to occupy the office of Magoffin County judge executive in accordance with the tabulated results of the November 4, 2014 election. View "Hardin v. Montgomery" on Justia Law

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In 2013, Shawn Valentine was elected trustee of Spencer Township in Lucas County. In 2015, Valentine, who serves in the Ohio Army National Guard, told the two other trustees of his military deployment but that he did not intend to resign his position as trustee. The two trustees subsequently voted to declare Valentine’s office vacant and then appointed one of the trustees, D. Hilarion Smith, to take Valentine’s trustee position. Relator, the Lucas County prosecuting attorney, sought a peremptory writ of quo warranto seeking to remove Smith from the office of township trustee and a declaration that Valentine was the rightful holder of that position. The Supreme Court granted the writ, holding (1) under the plain language of Ohio Rev. Code 503.241, Smith usurped the title and authority of Valentine’s office of township trustee; and (2) the board of township trustees violated the Open Meetings Act when it unlawfully appointed Smith to Valentine’s trustee position. View "State ex rel. Bates v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Steven Glickman, a candidate for the office of New York State Senator, filed a petition seeking an order validating designating petitions naming him as a candidate in the September 13, 2016 Primary Election. Three objectors filed a petition seeking an order invalidating the designating petitions. Supreme Court invalidated the petitions, concluding that Glickman did not meet New York’s five-year constitutional residency requirement as a matter of law. The Appellate Division reversed and validated the petitions. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Glickman could not claim New York residency for the past five years as required by the New York Constitution, and therefore, Supreme Court properly invalidated the designating petitions on that basis. View "Glickman v. Laffin" on Justia Law

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The Ohio election regulation at issue, Senate Bill 238, amends Ohio Revised Code section 3509.01, to allow early in-person voting for 29 days before Election Day. The law previously allowed 35 days for early voting, including six days during which a person could both register and vote. In one of many pending challenges to the state’s election laws, the district court found the provision invalid. The Sixth Circuit reversed, calling Ohio “a national leader when it comes to early voting opportunities.” The law is facially neutral; it offers early voting to everyone. The Constitution does not require any opportunities for early voting and as many as 13 states offer only Election Day voting. The regulation was the product of a bipartisan recommendation, as amended pursuant to a subsequent litigation settlement. It is the product of collaborative processes, not unilateral overreaching by the political party that happened to be in power. While the challenged regulation may slightly diminish the convenience of registration and voting, it applies even-handedly to all voters, and, despite the change, Ohio continues to provide generous, reasonable, and accessible voting options to all Ohioans. There is no cognizable injury under the Constitution or the Voting Rights Act. View "OH Democratic Party v. Husted" on Justia Law

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Initiative No. 181 (I-181) proposed to enact the “Montana Biomedical Research Authority Act.” The Secretary of State determined that sufficient signatures had been submitted to qualify I-181 for the November 8, 2016 general election ballot. Petitioners filed a petition for declaratory and injunctive relief requesting that the Supreme Court exercise its original jurisdiction to declare I-181 unconstitutional on its face and to enjoin its certification for the November 2016 general election ballot. The Supreme Court denied Petitioners’ request without prejudice to the filing of an appropriate civil action should the measure become law, as I-181 was not a “law.” View "Montana AFL-CIO v. McCulloch" on Justia Law

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Daniel Moulton filed an affidavit of candidacy for Third Judicial District Seat 16 in the 2016 primary election. With his affidavit of candidacy, Moulton included proof that he was licensed to practice law in Minnesota. The Secretary of State and Attorney General allowed a county auditor to strike Moulton’s name from the primary election ballot on the grounds that Moulton had failed to comply with the requirements of Minn. Stat. 204B.06(8) because he did not provide a copy of his attorney license during the filing period. Moulton subsequently filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to direct the Secretary of State to include his name on the primary election ballot. The Supreme Court granted the petition, holding that Moulton complied with the statutory requirements for filing as a candidate for judicial office. View "Moulton v. Simon" on Justia Law