Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries
Hotze v. Hudspeth
The Fifth Circuit concluded that plaintiffs' request to enjoin Harris County's administration of drive-thru voting in the November 2020 election is moot. The court explained that, since plaintiffs' appeal, the November 2020 election has been completed; the results have been certified; and new officeholders have been sworn in. The court also concluded that plaintiffs failed to identify any evidence in the record before the district court demonstrating that Harris County will offer drive-thru voting again in the future, let alone that it will offer it in such a way as to evade judicial review.Furthermore, while this appeal was pending, the Legislature passed S.B. 1, which addresses drive-thru voting. The court concluded that the challenge raised in last year's case before the district court is moot as to elections after December 2, 2021. Even if the court considered the argument that candidates have standing and assumed arguendo that candidates do have standing to challenge election procedures, that standing would pertain only to their claim as to the November 2020 election, the only election in which they claimed to be candidates. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's denial of injunctive relief and the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' claims for want of jurisdiction. The court also vacated the district court's advisory discussion of the legality of drive-thru voting without offering any opinion as to the merits of that reasoning. View "Hotze v. Hudspeth" on Justia Law
Markley v. State Elections Enforcement Commission
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court dismissing Plaintiffs' administrative appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction from the adverse decision of the State Elections Enforcement Commission determining that Plaintiffs violated certain state election laws and regulations, holding that the administrative appeal was timely filed.In its decision, the Commission found that Plaintiffs, who had received funding for their campaigns through the Citizens' Election Program, had violated laws and regulations related to the Program and imposed civil fines for those violations. Plaintiffs appealed. The superior court dismissed the appeal on the ground that it was untimely filed under Conn. Gen. Stat. 4-183(c)(2). The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the timeliness of Plaintiffs' appeal was governed by the limitation period of Conn. Gen. Stat. 4-183(c)(3); and (2) Plaintiffs' appeal was timely filed under section 4-183(c)(3). View "Markley v. State Elections Enforcement Commission" on Justia Law
Starr v. Chaparro
In 2019, the Oxnard city council adopted a resolution placing Measure B on the March 2020 ballot. Measure B sought to extend the mayor’s term to four years and to establish a limit of three terms for city council members. Two weeks later, Starr delivered an initiative petition to the city council. Starr’s initiative would not allow a person to indefinitely alternate between mayor and council member without a break and would establish a combined two-term limit for mayor and council member. The Ventura County Elections Division certified the signatures on Starr’s initiative petition. Instead of placing Starr’s initiative on the ballot, in January 2020, the city exercised its option under Elections Code section 9215(a) to adopt the initiative as an ordinance without alteration but did not remove Measure B from the ballot. The voters adopted Measure B, so it prevailed over the terms of Starr’s initiative previously adopted as an ordinance, and the term limits provided in Starr’s initiative did not take effect.The court of appeal reversed the trial court and ordered that the initiative be placed on the ballot. The city’s actions, rendering the ordinance a nullity, deprived the voters of the opportunity to decide the issue of term limits. View "Starr v. Chaparro" on Justia Law
McCoy v. Governor of Florida
In 2018, Florida voters approved Amendment 4, a state constitutional amendment that automatically restored voting rights to ex-felons who had completed all of the terms of their sentences. Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the "legal financial obligation" (LFO) requirement in Senate Bill 7066, which implemented the Amendment and required payment of all fines, fees, and restitution imposed as part of the sentence. The district court issued a preliminary injunction requiring the state to allow the named plaintiffs to register and vote if they are able to show that they are genuinely unable to pay their LFOs and would otherwise be eligible to vote under Amendment 4.In 2020, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the preliminary injunction with respect to the “wealth discrimination” claims. In 2021, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of an Equal Protection claim based on gender discrimination, on behalf of “low-income women of color who face unemployment, low wages, and difficulty paying off their financial debts at much higher rates than their male and white female counterparts.” The plaintiffs could prevail on their constitutional challenges only if they could “show that gender was a motivating factor in the adoption of the pay-to-vote system,” and they presented no evidence of intentional discrimination. View "McCoy v. Governor of Florida" on Justia Law
Capriglione v. Delaware, et al.
On April 5, 2021, Michael Capriglione was elected to a two-year term as a Commissioner of the Town of Newport. On the eve of his swearing-in ceremony, the Attorney General, on behalf of the State of Delaware, petitioned for a writ of quo warranto contending that Capriglione was prohibited from serving as a Commissioner because he had been convicted of misdemeanor official misconduct for actions he took as Newport’s police chief in 2018. That offense, the State argued, was a disqualifying “infamous crime” under Art. II, sec. 21 of the Delaware Constitution. The Superior Court stayed Capriglione’s swearing in to resolve this question and eventually held that he was constitutionally barred from holding public office. The Delaware Supreme Court considered Capriglione’s appeal on an expedited basis, hearing oral argument on July 14, 2021. On July 16, the Supreme Court issued an order reversing the Superior Court and allowing Capriglione to take the oath of office. In this opinion, the Court explained its reasons for doing so: under Section 21, only felonies can be disqualifying “infamous” crimes. View "Capriglione v. Delaware, et al." on Justia Law
Laws v. Grayeyes
The Supreme Court dismissed in part Plaintiff's appeal from the decision of the district court declining to overturn the results of the election for the office of San Juan County Commissioner, holding that Plaintiff lacked standing to file suit.In 2018, Defendant declared that he would run for the office of San Juan County Commissioner. To prove he was a county resident and therefore eligible to run for county offense, Defendant provided coordinates and satellite images for his San Juan County residence. After Defendant won the election, Plaintiff, who was also running for county commissioner, brought this lawsuit arguing that Defendant did not live at the coordinates he provided with his declaration of candidacy. The district court declined to overturn the results of the election. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff lacked standing to file suit because he failed to allege a sufficiently particularized injury; and (2) the district court properly rejected Defendant's cross-appeal for attorney fees. View "Laws v. Grayeyes" on Justia Law
Mohn v. Bucks Co. Republican Committee
Appellant Daniel Mohn was a Republican committeeperson of Appellee, the Bucks County Republican Committee, for the voting district of Yardley Borough. In 2014, he was first elected to a two-year term, and reelected in 2016. After the election, the acting chairman of Appellee’s Ethics Committee sent a letter to Appellant advising him that complaints had been lodged by Bryan McNamara and Nicholas and Sandra Liberato, alleging among other things, that Appellant had “actively campaigned against an endorsed candidate for committeeman and disparaged the importance and value of the Bucks County Republican Committee Sample Ballot.” In his correspondence to Appellant, the acting chairman also related that an investigatory hearing had been scheduled before the Ethics Committee. Appellant asked for, and was granted, a short continuance. Appellant's counsel took the position that the Code of Ethics reposited in the Committee Rules applied solely to elected and appointed public officials, not party officials. As such, counsel opined that the Ethics Committee lacked the authority to conduct any proceedings and asserted that the hearing should be cancelled. In the alternative, counsel reiterated his request for a longer continuance and complained that he hadn’t been provided with requested documents. The hearing before the Ethics Committee apparently proceeded nevertheless, and at the conclusion of the hearing, the Executive Committee voted to disqualify Appellant as a committeeperson and declare his office vacant. Appellant and two other individuals filed a complaint in the court of common pleas seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent their removal as committeepersons, as well as an award of attorneys’ fees as a sanction for purported bad faith. The plaintiffs also filed a separate emergency motion asking the court to enjoin the conduct of any hearing before the Executive Committee. The issue before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in this matter reduced to a question of the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania courts to intervene in the internal affairs of political parties. The Court credited Appellee's position that “through its internal, self-organized apparatus, [it was] permitted to construe its own governing rules and to disqualify elected occupants of its offices from participation in its affairs by exercising its own judgment, free from judicial interference.” View "Mohn v. Bucks Co. Republican Committee" on Justia Law
Schmitz v. Barron et al.
Warren Schmitz contested the results of the November 3, 2020, election to fill the seat for Georgia House of Representatives District 52. The certified election results showed that 17,069 votes were cast for Shea Roberts, and 16,692 votes were cast for incumbent Deborah Silcox, thus making Roberts the winner by 377 votes. Claiming a variety of irregularities, Schmitz filed a timely petition in Fulton County Superior Court on November 25, 2020, to contest the results of the House District 52 election. On April 22, 2021, that petition was dismissed by the superior court based on its determination that Roberts had to be served with the notice of the election contest under OCGA 21-2-524 (f) and its finding that Schmitz failed to exercise diligence to see that Roberts was properly served. On appeal, Schmitz contended these determinations were erroneous and that the trial court lacked the authority to dismiss the case on this basis. However, the Georgia Supreme Court agreed with the superior court that OCGA 21-2-524 (f) required candidates to be served with notice of the election contest. "Moreover, because the findings of the superior court with respect to diligence are supported by the record and because dismissal of the election contest was within the superior court’s discretion, we affirm." View "Schmitz v. Barron et al." on Justia Law
Alaska, Office of Lieutenant Governor, Division of Elections v. Arctic Village Council, et al.
About two months before the 2020 general election, a village government, a nonpartisan political organization, and two individual Alaska voters sought to enjoin the State from enforcing a statute that required absentee ballots to be witnessed by an official or other adult. They argued that, under the unusual circumstances posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the witness requirement unconstitutionally burdened the right to vote. The superior court granted a preliminary injunction, concluding that the State’s interests in maintaining the witness requirement were outweighed by the burden that requirement would impose on the right to vote during times of community lockdowns and strict limits on person-to-person contact. The court also rejected the State’s laches defense, reasoning that the unpredictability of the pandemic’s course made it reasonable for the plaintiffs to wait as long as they did before filing suit. The State petitioned for review. After an expedited oral argument the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s decision, finding no abuse of discretion. This opinion explained the Court's reasoning. View "Alaska, Office of Lieutenant Governor, Division of Elections v. Arctic Village Council, et al." on Justia Law
Hillside Creek Farms v. Clark County Board of Elections
The Supreme Court denied a writ of prohibition sought by Relators in this expedited election case to bar the Clark County Board of Elections from placing a referendum on the November 2021 election ballot, holding that Relators were not entitled to the writ.Hillside Creek Farms filed an application to rezone its forty-two-acre parcel of real property from agricultural and rural residential to a Planned District-Residential classification. After the Clark County Board of County Commissioners approved the amended rezoning application a petition was filed requesting a ballot referendum on the Hillside rezoning resolution. Relators, including Hillside, filed a protest against the zoning-referendum petition. The denied the protest and placed the referendum on the November ballot. The Supreme Court denied Relators' requested writ of prohibition, holding that the board of elections' decision to approve the zoning referendum for placement on the ballot was authorized by law. View "Hillside Creek Farms v. Clark County Board of Elections" on Justia Law