Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

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In 2014, New Hampshire amended a statute by forbidding citizens from photographing their marked ballots and publicizing those photographs (referred to as “ballot selfies”). Three New Hampshire citizens filed suit, arguing that the statute was a content-based restriction of speech that, on its face, violates the First Amendment. The district court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. On appeal, the New Hampshire Secretary of State argued that the statute was justified to prevent vote buying and voter intimidation. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the statute as amended is facially unconstitutional even applying only intermediate scrutiny, and the statute’s purposes cannot justify the restrictions it imposes on speech. View "Rideout v. Gardner" on Justia Law

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Petitioners filed a petition under Minn. Stat. 204B.44 asserting that Respondents - the Secretary of State, the Ramsey County and Hennepin County election managers, and certain election judges - were not taking the necessary steps to ensure that those ineligible to vote were not permitted to vote, in violation of the separation-of-powers doctrine and the constitutional rights of eligible voters. The Supreme Court dismissed the petition, holding that, even if the petition properly invoked the Court’s original jurisdiction under section 204B.44, the Court would not exercise it in this case because an exercise of original jurisdiction over this case was not warranted. View "Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Simon" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Alabama made changes to its election law that impacted the ADC’s ability to raise and spend money in state elections. The ADC filed suit challenging Alabama Code 17-5-15(b) (the PAC-to-PAC transfer ban), which limited the ADC's fundraising abilities. On appeal, the ADC challenges the district court's final judgment in favor of the State, arguing that the PAC-to-PAC transfer ban is unconstitutional as applied because the ban violates the ADC’s First Amendment right to make independent expenditures. The court concluded that the State’s proffered interest in transparency ties into its interest in preventing corruption to justify regulating transfers between PACs. The court also concluded that the PAC-to-PAC transfer ban as applied to the ADC is sufficiently closely drawn to avoid unnecessary abridgment of associational freedoms. The ban had met the less rigorous "closely drawn" standard by being narrowly tailored to achieve Alabama's desired objective in preventing quid pro quo corruption (or its appearance) as applied to the ADC in this case. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's finding on the merits that the ban is constitutional as applied to ADC. View "The Alabama Democratic Conference v. Attorney General, State of Alabama" on Justia Law

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After the Party failed to meet the deadline for recognition as an official political party on the 2014 Arizona ballot, it challenges the constitutionality of Arizona’s filing deadline for new party petitions, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The Party claims that by requiring "new" parties to file recognition petitions 180 days before the primary, Arizona unconstitutionally burdens those parties’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The court concluded that, without evidence of the specific obstacles to ballot access that the deadline imposes, the Party did not establish that its rights are severely burdened. Moreover, the court concluded that, at best, any burden is de minimus. Finally, after the court balanced the impact of the 180-day filing deadline on the Party's rights against Arizona's interests - administering orderly elections - in maintaining that deadline, the court concluded that the Party has not demonstrated an unconstitutional interference with ballot access. View "Arizona Green Party v. Reagan" on Justia Law

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In addition to removing the names of the deceased, adjudicated incompetents, and felons from its voter rolls, Ohio removess voters who are no longer eligible to vote because they have moved outside their county of registration, Ohio Rev. Code 3503.21.1 The “NCOA Process” mirrors the National Voter Registration Act, 52 U.S.C. 20507(c), description of ways in which states “may” comply with their obligation to remove voters who are no longer eligible. The Secretary of State’s office compares names and addresses from Ohio’s Statewide Voter Registration Database to the U.S. Postal Service’s National Change of Address database, then provides each county’s Board of Elections (BOE) with a list of voters who appear to have moved. The BOEs send a confirmation notice. Recipients are removed if they do not respond or update their registration and do not subsequently vote during four consecutive years, including two federal elections. Ohio’s “Supplemental Process” begins with each BOE's list of registered voters who have not engaged in “voter activity” for two years, followed by a mailed notice: a voter is removed after six years of inactivity. During the litigation, the Secretary revised the confirmation notice, so that voters can confirm their address by signing and returning a postage-prepaid form, without including extensive personal information previously required. The Sixth Circuit concluded that claims regarding Ohio’s confirmation notice are not moot, and that the court erred by concluding that Ohio need not provide out-of-state movers with information on how they can continue to be eligible to vote. View "A. Philip Randolph Inst. v. Husted" on Justia Law

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Sensible Norwood was a political-action committee established to support an initiative proposing an ordinance to decriminalize hashish and marijuana in the City of Norwood. The Hamilton County Board of Elections voted unanimously not to place the proposed ordinance on the ballot for the November 8, 2016 election, reasoning that it attempted to enact felony offenses and to impose administrative restrictions on the enforcement of existing laws. Sensible Norwood and its founder (together, Relators) initiated this action as an expedited election matter seeking a writ of mandamus to require the Board to place the proposed ordinance on the ballot. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that Relators failed to establish a clear legal right to the requested relief and a clear legal duty on the part of the Board to provide it. View "State ex rel. Sensible Norwood v. Hamilton County Bd. of Elections" on Justia Law

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On July 7, 2016, the Secretary of State certified that The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act had met the constitutional signature requirements in order to place the proposed initiated act on the Arkansas general election ballot of November 8, 2016. Dr. Melanie Conway, both individually and on behalf of Arkansas Against Legalized Marijuana, brought this original action challenging the legal sufficiency of the Act’s ballot title. Arkansas for Compassionate Care 2016 successfully moved to intervene in the action in support of the Act’s ballot title. The Supreme Court denied Conway’s petition, holding that Conway did not meet her burden of proving that the ballot title was legally insufficient. View "Conway v. Martin" on Justia Law

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In November 2012, 18 months before Indiana’s primary election, Common Cause sought a declaration that Indiana Code 33– 33–49–13 violated its members’ First Amendment right to cast a meaningful vote. The statute established the system for electing Marion Superior Court judges, providing that a political party could not nominate through the primary election more than half of the candidates eligible to sit on that court. Political parties eligible to hold primaries were those whose candidates for Indiana Secretary of State received at least 10 percent of the votes cast in the last general election; since 1952, only the Republican and Democratic parties have met that threshold, effectively limiting the candidates that could be selected by the voters. Marion County was the only place in the country to employ such a process. While the litigation was pending, Marion County held its primary election. There were 16 open Superior Court positions; eight Republican and 11 Democratic candidates (including plaintiffs) ran. Plaintiffs spent almost no effort campaigning and did poorly. The statute was declared unconstitutional before the general election. Plaintiffs sought a special election, to vindicate their constitutional rights. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment, holding that a special election was not appropriate, given the potential burdens on the county as weighed against plaintiffs’ interest in being placed on the ballot and the voters’ interest in casting a meaningful vote. View "Bowes v. Ind. Sec'y of State" on Justia Law

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This case centered around Amendment No. 3, a constitutional amendment proposed by initiative petition. After the Secretary of State certified Amendment No. 3 for the November 8, 2016 general election ballot, various individuals (collectively, “Opponents”) brought three separate cases pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. 116.200.1 seeking to reverse this decision. The trial court entered judgment against the Opponents. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the proponents submitted a sufficient number of valid signatures in support of the amendment to qualify for the ballot; (2) the amendment does not, on its face, amend or create more than one article of the Missouri Constitution; (3) the amendment does not violate the constitutional prohibition against appropriation by initiative; and (4) the remainder of the Opponents’ substantive challenges were premature. View "Boeving v. Kander" on Justia Law

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The Schottenstein Real Estate Group filed a rezoning application seeking a mixed-use designation for three parcels of land, two owned by Paul and Mary Jacquemin and a third owned by Arthur and Elizabeth Wesner. The Jerome Township Board of Trustees adopted a resolution approving the rezoning. Thereafter, opponents of the resolution delivered a referendum petition to the township fiscal officer. The Jacquemins filed a protest of the petition with the Union County Board of Elections, and the Wesners filed a separate protest. The Jerome Township Board of Trustees voted to deny the protests and to place the referendum issue on the November 8, 2016 general election ballot. The Jacquemins sought extraordinary relief to prevent the Board from placing the referendum on the ballot. The Supreme Court granted the request for a writ of mandamus, holding that the Board clearly disregarded the applicable legal standard for reviewing petition summaries, as the petition summary in this case was misleading and could not form the basis to submit this issue to a vote. View "State ex rel. Jacquemin v. Union County Bd. of Elections" on Justia Law