Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

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Appellants Eric Early and his election committee, Eric Early for Attorney General 2018 (collectively, Early), appealed the denial of their petition for writ of mandate to preclude respondent Xavier Becerra from running for Attorney General in 2018. Early contended that Becerra, appointed Attorney General by former Governor Brown in 2016, was not eligible for the office under Government Code section 12503. Becerra was an “inactive” member of the California State Bar from 1991 to the end of 2016. Government Code section 12503 provided: “No person shall be eligible to the office of Attorney General unless he shall have been admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the state for a period of at least five years immediately preceding his election or appointment to such office.” Early argues that an “inactive” attorney may not practice law in California and therefore is not “admitted to practice” under Government Code section 12503. The Court of Appeal disagreed, finding both active and inactive attorneys were members of the State Bar. The phrase “admitted to practice” referred to the event of admission to the bar and the status of being admitted, and did not require engagement in the “actual” or “active” practice of law. Becerra did not cease to be “admitted to practice” in California when he voluntarily changed his status to “inactive.” View "Early v. Becerra" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed the Libertarian Party of Ohio's complaint asking the Supreme Court to invalidate Directive 2020-06 and establish procedures for completing the 2020 primary election, holding that subsequent actions by the secretary of state and the general assembly rendered those requests moot. On March 16, 2020 the director of the Ohio Department of Health issued an order closing polling places in Ohio to avoid the threat of exposure to COVID-19. That same night, the Secretary of State issued Directive 2020-06, which purported to extend absentee voting through June 1 and set June 2 as the date for in-person voting at polling places. On March 17, this expedited election case was filed seeking a writ of prohibition to invalidate the directive and establish procedures for completing the 2020 primary election. Thereafter, the General Assembly passed House Bill 197, an emergency act that voided Directive 2020-06 and established how the primary election will proceed. The governor signed House Bill 197 into law on March 27. The Supreme Court dismissed this cause, holding that the Libertarian Party's complaint was moot. View "State ex rel. Ohio Democratic Party v. LaRose" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Appellants' complaint challenging the constitutionality of the winner-take-all method for selecting presidential electors that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts adopted, holding that Appellants failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Pursuant to its constitutional authority, Massachusetts enacted a statutory scheme that provides for the appointment of electors for president and Vice President on a winner-take-all (WTA) basis. Appellants sued the Commonwealth challenging the constitutionality of the WTA system as applied in Massachusetts, arguing that the WTA method violates their right to an equally weighted vote under the Equal Protection Clause as well as their associational rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of standing and failure to state a claim. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Appellants did have standing to bring their claims; but (2) Appellants failed to state a claim for relief under either of their constitutional theories. View "Lyman v. Baker" on Justia Law

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Mohamed Awad appealed a district court order denying his motion to withdraw his guilty plea to a charge of knowingly voting when not qualified to do so. On appeal, Awad argued the district court should have allowed him to withdraw his guilty plea because he was not adequately advised under N.D.R.Crim.P. 11(b) of the possible immigration consequences of pleading guilty, and because he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court order. View "North Dakota v. Awad" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court approved for placement on the ballot an initiative petition to amend the Florida Constitution titled "All Voters Vote in Primary Elections for State Legislature, Governor, and Cabinet," holding that the Initiative complies with the single-subject requirement of Fla. Const. art. XI, 3 and that the ballot title and summary comply with the requirements of Fla. Stat. 101.161(1). Specifically, the Court held (1) the Initiative does not substantially alter or perform the functions of multiple branches of government and therefore complies with the single-subject requirement of article XI, section 3; and (2) the ballot title and summary comply with the requirements of section 101.161(1). View "Advisory Opinion to Attorney General Re All Voters Vote in Primary Elections for State Legislature, Governor & Cabinet" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied Petitioners' petition filed under Minn. Stat. 204B.44(a) asking that the Supreme Court direct the Minnesota Secretary of State to include Roque De La Fuente's name as a candidate for The Republican Party of Minnesota's nomination for United States President on the ballot for the Minnesota presidential nomination primary election on March 3, 2020, holding that Petitioners' claims failed. Petitioners argued that the procedure established by Minn. Stat. 207A.13, which allows a major political party to determine which candidates' names will be on the ballot for a statewide presidential nomination primary, was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that section 207A.13 does not violate (1) the prohibition against special privileges because the Legislature had a rational basis for classifying political parties based on a party's participation in a national convention to nominate the party's presidential candidate; (2) the Presidential Eligibility Clause because requiring a political party to identify the candidates for the ballot to be used in a presidential nomination primary is not a condition of eligibility to serve as President of the United States; and (3) Petitioners' rights of free association because any burden imposed on those rights by the ballot preparation procedures is outweighed by the associational rights of political parties and the State's regulatory interests. View "De La Fuente v. Simon" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the Commission's dismissal of three administrative complaints alleging violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act's disclosure requirements. After determining that plaintiffs had Article III standing, the court held that the Commission provided a reasonable basis for the dismissals. In this case, the Commission (through the statement of the controlling commissioners) provided a sufficiently reasonable basis for its decision not to investigate plaintiffs' straw donor allegations. Furthermore, the Commission provided a reasonable basis for its decision not to investigate plaintiffs' political committee allegations. View "Campaign Legal Center v. Federal Election Commission" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was how long a board of supervisors must wait before reenacting the essential feature of the protested ordinance. The Court of Appeal interpreted Elections Code section 9145 to mean a board of supervisors may reenact the essential feature of the repealed ordinance after there has been a material change in circumstances. The court held that a change in circumstances is material if an objectively reasonable person would consider the new circumstances significant or important in making a decision about the subject matter of the ordinance. Applying this statutory interpretation in this case, the court held that the Board did not violate section 9145 when it enacted the May 2016 moratorium on new marijuana dispensaries or subsequently banned dispensaries, and thus the ordinance banning dispensaries is enforceable. Accordingly, the court reversed the permanent injunction portion of the judgment. View "County of Kern v. Alta Sierra Holistic etc." on Justia Law

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In consolidated cases, petitioners sought judicial review of the Oregon Attorney General’s certified ballot title for Initiative Petition 40 (2020) (IP 40). If enacted, IP 40 would establish requirements for securing firearms, reporting the loss or theft of firearms, and supervising minors’ use of firearms. It would also establish consequences for violating those requirements, including strict liability for injuries caused by use of the firearms involved in the violations. After review, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded the ballot title’s caption and “yes” result statement did not substantially comply with the applicable statutory requirements. Therefore, the Court referred the ballot title to the Attorney General for modification. View "Hopkins/Starrett v. Rosenblum" on Justia Law

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Any Ohio registered voter may cast an absentee ballot, starting about a month before election day, but the state requires voters to request an absentee ballot by noon, three days before election day. The lone exception is for unexpectedly hospitalized electors, who may request an absentee ballot until 3 p.m. on election day. Police arrested the plaintiffs the weekend before election day 2018. Foreseeing their confinement through the upcoming election, they sued for access to absentee ballots on behalf of themselves and a class of similar individuals, with an Equal Protection claim, challenging the disparate treatment of hospital-confined and jail-confined electors, and a First Amendment claim. The trial court permitted the plaintiffs to vote in November 2018 but declined to extend that relief to the class. The district court then granted the plaintiffs summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The burden on the plaintiffs’ right to vote is intermediate, somewhere “between slight and severe.” They are not totally denied a chance to vote by Ohio’s absentee ballot deadlines, so the laws survive if the state’s justifications outweigh this moderate burden. The state identified several counties that do not have adequate resources to process late absentee ballot requests from unexpectedly jail-confined electors without foregoing other duties necessary to ensure the orderly administration of Ohio’s elections. View "Mays v. LaRose" on Justia Law