Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

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Appellants, members of a Minneapolis citizen group, submitted a petition to the Minneapolis City Council for consideration of a question regarding a proposed amendment to the Minneapolis City Charter. The proposed amendment would require City police officers to obtain and maintain professional liability insurance coverage and would impose other conditions for coverage and indemnification. Concluding that the proposed insurance amendment conflicted with and was preempted by state law, the City Council directed the City Clerk not to include the amendment question on the ballot for the November 2016 election. Appellants filed a petition to challenge that decision. The district court agreed with the City Council and dismissed the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the proposed insurance amendment conflicts with state law, and therefore, the district court properly dismissed Appellants’ petition. View "Bicking v. City of Minneapolis" on Justia Law

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On January 19, 2016, the Board of Directors of the City of Hot Springs passed an ordinance annexing certain land. The City of Hot Springs then published the ordinance. On February 23, 2016, a petition sponsor delivered a referendum petition in opposition to the ordinance to the city clerk of Hot Springs, who rejected the petition as untimely. Appellant filed a petition for writ of mandamus requesting a writ commanding the city clerk and/or the City to accept and certify the petition. The circuit court denied the petition for writ of mandamus, concluding that the petition was untimely. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in concluding that Ordinance No. 4533 governs the time for filing a referendum petition and that the deadline for filing a referendum petition is thirty days after the passage of an ordinance. View "Pritchett v. Spicer" on Justia Law

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In July 2015, the Delaware Joint Vocational School District Board of Education passed a resolution to submit a renewal levy to voters at the general election. On November 20, 2015, the Delaware County Board of Elections purported to certify the election result. The county auditor then delivered the abstract of tax rates to the tax commissioner to apply the reduction factors and calculate the tax rate for the school district. When the county auditor discovered that the Board of Elections had not certified the results of the levy using Form 5-U, however, the tax commissioner excluded the levy on the list of tax rates certified for collection to the county auditors in counties with territory in the school district, and the levy was not included on the property tax bills sent to property owners for the first half of tax year 2016. The school board brought this action in mandamus to compel the tax commissioner to apply the reduction factors and calculate the tax rates for the levy. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding that because no proper certification of the multicounty election was presented to the tax commissioner demonstrating that the tax was authorized to be levied, the commissioner did not have a clear legal duty to apply reduction factors and calculate tax rates for this levy. View "State ex rel. Delaware Joint Vocational School District Board of Education v. Testa" on Justia Law

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The circuit court issued a temporary injunction and enjoined the August 9, 2016 special election to amend an existing sales-and-use tax and to issue bonds to finance the construction of a new Mississippi County courthouse, ruling that section 20 of Act 18 of 1901 prohibits a countywide sales-and-use tax to fund the construction of a new county courthouse. Mississippi County appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeals as moot because (1) the special election enjoined was scheduled for a date that has passed; and (2) this appeal is rendered moot by the Court’s decision in a companion case that resolved the pertinent issues. View "Mississippi County v. City of Osceola" on Justia Law

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Resolution No. R-2016-16 referred Ordinance No. O-2016-16, which amended an existing sales-and-use tax ordinance to change the indicated use of revenues, to the voters for approval or rejection in a special election to be held on March 14, 2016. Ordinance No. O-2016-17 called a special election on the question of issuing bonds for the construction of a new courthouse in Blytheville in Mississippi County. Appellees filed a petition seeking a temporary and permanent injunction of the March 14, 2016 special election. The circuit court granted Appellees’ petition for a permanent injunction of the special election, ruling that Act 81 of 1901 invalidated the ordinances and resolution. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by enjoining a special election on the grounds that Act 81 of 1901 prohibits an ordinance that authorizes the issuance of bonds to finance the new courthouse. View "Mississippi County v. City of Osceola" on Justia Law

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After the 2010 census, the Virginia Legislature drew new lines for 12 state legislative districts, to ensure that each district would have a black voting-age population of at least 55%. Voters challenged the redistricting under the Equal Protection Clause. As to 11 districts, the district court concluded that the voters had not shown that race was the predominant factor motivating the legislature’s decision, reasoning that race predominates only where there is an “actual conflict between traditional redistricting criteria and race.” As to District 75, the court found that race did predominate, but the use of race was narrowly tailored to a compelling state interest--avoiding violation of the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court vacated in part, stating that the proper inquiry concerns the actual considerations that provided the essential basis for the lines drawn, not post hoc justifications. A legislature could construct a plethora of potential maps that look consistent with traditional, race-neutral principles, but if race is the overriding reason for choosing a map, race still may predominate. Challengers may establish racial predominance without evidence of an actual conflict. A holistic analysis is necessary to give the proper weight to districtwide evidence, such as stark splits in the racial composition of populations moved into and out of a district, or the use of a racial target. The judgment regarding District 75 is consistent with the basic narrow tailoring analysis; the state’s interest in complying with the Voting Rights Act was a compelling interest and the legislature had sufficient grounds to determine that the race-based calculus it employed was necessary to avoid violating the Act. View "Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections" on Justia Law

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Defendant John Fenley was elected to the Trinity County Board of Supervisors in the June 7, 2016 election. Contestant Firenza Pini filed a contest in the superior court 20 days after certification of the final canvass, alleging mistakes, errors, and misconduct in counting the ballots. The superior court, treating the contest as involving a primary election, summarily dismissed the contest because it was filed more than five days after certification of the final canvass. The Court of Appeal reversed: because Fenley was elected by a majority of votes, and not merely nominated, Pini had 30 days after certification of the final canvass to file her contest. View "Pini v. Fenley" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the Minnesota Secretary of State and others, challenging a statute prohibiting the wearing of political insignia at a polling place, Minnesota Statute 211B.11. This court reversed the dismissal of plaintiffs' as-applied First Amendment claim in Minnesota Majority v. Mansky, 708 F.3d 1051, 1059 (8th Cir. 2013). The district court, on remand, granted summary judgment for defendants. The court concluded that the statute and Policy are viewpoint neutral and facially reasonable. The court noted that the statute and Policy prohibit more than election-related apparel. The court explained that, even if Tea Party apparel was not election-related, it was not unreasonable to prohibit it in a polling place. In order to ensure a neutral, influence-free polling place, all political material was banned. In this case, EIW offered nothing to rebut evidence that the Tea Party has recognizable political views. The court concluded that the district court properly granted summary judgment because no reasonable trier of fact could conclude that the statute and Policy as applied to EIW violated its First Amendment rights. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky" on Justia Law

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In February 2016 proponents submitted to the Napa County Registrar of Voters their initiative petition. After initially certifying that the initiative qualified for placement on the ballot, the registrar rejected the petition based on advice from county counsel that the measure did not comply with the full-text requirement of Elections Code section 9101. The measure consists of 10 sections filling 18 pages. Its stated purpose is “to protect the water quality, biological productivity and economic and environmental value of Napa County’s streams, watersheds, wetlands and forests, and to safeguard the public health, safety and welfare of the county’s residents.” It would amend the goals and policies of the general plan; require additional water quality buffer zones along streams and wetlands; increase the minimum ratio for replacing lost oak woodlands in an agricultural watershed zoning district; and add to the Code an “Oak Removal Permit Program,” requiring compliance with the best management practices set forth in the “Napa County Voluntary Oak Woodland Management Plan (2010)” without including the text of those practices. The court of appeals affirmed. The measure does not simply cross-reference another provision of law but would enact as binding conditions for permission to remove certain trees what are now only recommended measures for voluntary compliance. View "Wilson v. County of Napa" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are the Powhatan County Republican Committee and four individuals nominated by the Committee to be candidates for election to the Board of Supervisors for Powhatan County, Virginia. Plaintiffs filed suit against the Board of Elections, challenging the constitutionality of the portion of Virginia Code 24.2-613(B) that provides that only candidates in elections "for federal, statewide, and General Assembly offices" may be identified on the ballot by the name of the political party that nominated them or by the term "Independent." The district court granted judgment in favor of the Board. The court concluded that the burden on associational rights imposed by Virginia's regulation of the use of party identifiers on official ballots is at most minimal and is amply justified by Virginia's important interests, which include minimizing partisanship at the local government level, promoting impartial governance, and maximizing the number of citizens eligible to hold local office under the Hatch Act, 5 U.S.C. 7321-7326; concluded that section 24.2-613(B)'s different treatment of local candidates and federal, statewide, and General Assembly candidates with respect to party identifiers on the ballot does not violate the Equal Protection Clause because such treatment is rationally related to legitimate governmental interests; and thus affirmed the judgment. View "Marcellus v. Virginia State Board of Elections" on Justia Law