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The Supreme Court denied Relators’ petition seeking a writ of mandamus compelling the Lorain County Board of Election to certify an initiative petition for the November ballot. The petition sought to repeal a county permissive sales tax. The Lorain County Board of Elections voted not to place the petition on the general election ballot on the grounds that Ohio Rev. Code 5739.022 does not permit an initiative petition to repeal a county permissive tax that was not passed or enacted as an emergency measure. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that section 5739.022(A) did not provide Relators the clear legal right to have the petition placed on the November ballot. View "State ex rel. Repeal Lorain County Permissive Sales Tax Committee v. Lorain County Board of Elections" on Justia Law

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Petitioner sought review of the Attorney General’s certified ballot title for Initiative Petition 2 (2018) (IP 2). IP 2, if enacted, would change the way that signatures were gathered to put an initiative measure or a referendum on the ballot. Currently, once the Secretary of State determines that an initiative or referendum petition meets certain minimum requirements, the chief petitioners or petition circulators must collect signatures from registered voters on signature sheets prepared in accordance with the Secretary of State’s rules. IP 2 would make two major changes to those requirements: (1) it would require the Secretary of State to adopt rules permitting registered voters to sign initiative and referendum petitions digitally; and (2) it would require the Secretary of State to create and administer a website where registered voters could sign petitions digitally. Petitioner challenged the caption, the "yes" vote result statement, and the summary. The Oregon Supreme Court determined changes were warranted to the ballot title, but not the "yes" vote result statement or the summary. The ballot title was referred back to the Attorney General for modification. View "Unger v. Rosenblum" on Justia Law

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In an election contest for a seat on the Baker County Board of Education, the Georgia Supreme Court granted the application for interlocutory appeal filed by Brendette Williams, who challenged the trial court’s denial of her motion to dismiss the contest petition filed by Sharon Heard, her opponent in the primary election. The Court concluded Heard’s challenge to the primary election was now moot, and therefore vacated the trial court’s order and remanded this case for the contest action to be dismissed. Furthermore, the Court concluded that because the trial judge did not meet the requirements of OCGA 21-2-523 (b) to preside over this action, upon remand, a judge meeting such requirements had to be selected to preside over entry of the dismissal. View "Williams v. Heard" on Justia Law

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Gordon Roy Butt sought to run for Colorado senate for the Libertarian Party in a 2013 recall election. The Secretary of State denied his request to circulate a petition because his request came after the deadline as then set by section 1-12-117(1). Butt and the Libertarian Party (collectively, “the Party”) sued the Secretary under section 1-1-113, C.R.S. (2017), alleging that the statutory deadline conflicted with the Colorado Constitution. Within the section 1-1-113 proceeding, the Party also raised a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. 1983 (2012), and an accompanying request for an award of attorney’s fees under 42 U.S.C. 1988 (2012), alleging, inter alia, a First Amendment violation. The district court found for the Party on the state constitutional claim, and did not address the section 1983 claim. After the Colorado Supreme Court denied appellate review on a split vote, further proceedings occurred before the district court. The case was appealed once again, and the Supreme Court denied review again. Nine months later, the Party returned to district court seeking summary judgment on its section 1983 claim and, in the alternative, an attorney’s fee award under section 1988 on the ground that the Party had been successful on its state constitutional claim. The district court denied the Party’s request for attorney’s fees, finding that it had not pursued fees in a timely manner. It also dismissed the section 1983 claim as moot due to the General Assembly’s 2014 amendment of section 1-12-117(1). The court of appeals reversed the district court, holding that although the Party’s section 1983 claim was moot, the request for attorney’s fees under section 1988 was appropriate so long as the section 1983 claim was substantial, stemmed from the same nucleus of operative facts as the state constitutional claim, and was reasonably related to the plaintiff’s ultimate success. The court remanded the case to the district court to apply this test to determine whether the Party was entitled to fees. The Colorado Secretary of State appealed, and the Supreme Court reversed: a section 1983 claim may not be brought in a section 1-1-113 proceeding. The language of that section repeatedly refers to "this code," meaning the Colorado Election Code. Therefore, a section 1-1-113 proceeding is limited to allegations of a “breach or neglect of duty or other wrongful act” under the election code itself. § 1-1-113(1). We emphasize that Colorado courts remain entirely open for adjudication of section 1983 claims, including on an expedited basis if a preliminary injunction is sought, and that therefore section 1-1-113 does not run afoul of the Supremacy Clause. View "Williams v. Libertarian Party" on Justia Law

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Ryan Frazier ran as a Republican candidate for United States Senate. After the Colorado Secretary of State determined that Frazier had not gathered enough sufficient signatures to appear on the ballot, Frazier challenged the Secretary’s determination under section 1-1-113, C.R.S. (2017), arguing that the Secretary improperly invalidated hundreds of signatures that substantially complied with the Colorado Election Code. Frazier also brought a claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 (2012) arguing that certain Colorado statutes prohibiting non-resident circulators from gathering signatures violated the First Amendment. Frazier filed an accompanying request for attorney’s fees as authorized by 42 U.S.C. 1988 (2012). The district court ruled that the Secretary had properly invalidated certain signatures such that Frazier could not appear on the primary ballot. Frazier then appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court, which remanded for reconsideration of a number of signatures under the appropriate standard. On remand, the district court found that additional signatures substantially complied with the code, providing Frazier with sufficient signatures to appear on the Republican primary ballot for United States Senate. No ruling was made on Frazier’s section 1983 claim. Frazier then sought attorney’s fees pursuant to section 1988. The Secretary opposed the fee request, arguing that federal claims such as section 1983 may not be brought in summary proceedings under section 1-1-113. The district court disagreed, finding Frazier was entitled to an award of attorney’s fees. The Colorado Supreme Court held that where the language of section 1-1-113 allows a claim to be brought against an election official who has allegedly committed a "breach or neglect of duty or other wrongful act" under the Colorado Election Code, it refers to a breach of duty or other wrongful action under the Colorado Election Code, not a section 1983 claim. "Colorado courts remain entirely open for the adjudication of section 1983 claims, including on an expedited basis if a preliminary injunction is sought, and that therefore section 1-1-113 does not run afoul of the Supremacy Clause." View "Frazier v. Williams" on Justia Law

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The Republican Party sued the Cook County Board of Election Commissioners, arguing that the Board must include on the ballot a candidate that the Party slated for the House of Representatives in the November 2016 election. The Board had never announced a plan to exclude the candidate. The district court entered an injunction compelling the Board to keep this candidate on the ballot. The Seventh Circuit remanded with instructions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Party’s dispute with two additional defendants, elected as ward committeemen, based on the Party’s refusal to seat them, is not a federal claim. The Party’s “anticipatory federal contention,” that ”if state law does not respect the Party’s eligibility rules, then Illinois violates the First Amendment,” was only a potential response to a potential contention by the committeemen that all elected ward committeemen must be seated on the Party’s central committee. The district judge did not consider the fact that public officials were not contesting the Party’s claims or the possibility that he was issuing an advisory opinion. If the committeemen had sued the Party, demanding membership on its central committee, their claim would have arisen under Illinois law. View "Cook County Republican Party v. Sapone" on Justia Law

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The Texas Legislature enacted SB 5 in 2016 to cure any statutory and constitutional violations related to SB 14 after Veasey v. Abbott, 830 F.3d 216 (5th Cir. 2016) (en banc). The district court permanently enjoined the enforcement of relevant sections of SB 14 and SB 5 and also enjoined upcoming elections under an interim order. The Fifth Circuit granted a stay pending appeal, stayed the district court's injunction orders, and stayed proceedings in the district court until a final disposition of this appeal. In this case, SB 5 allows voters without qualifying photo ID to cast regular ballots by executing a declaration that they face a reasonable impediment to obtaining qualifying photo ID. The court explained that this declaration is made under the penalty of perjury, and each of the 27 voters identified—whose testimony the plaintiffs used to support their discriminatory-effect claim—can vote without impediment under SB 5. The court held that the State has made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits because its reasonable-impediment procedure remedies plaintiffs' alleged harm and foreclosed plaintiffs' injunctive relief. The State has also made an adequate showing as to the other factors considered in determining a stay pending appeal. View "Veasey v. Abbott" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, the Libertarian Party's presidential and vice presidential candidates in the 2012 elections, filed suit claiming that they were excluded pursuant to an agreement between the Obama for America and Romney for President campaigns. Plaintiffs alleged that the parties' agreement reflected in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) stipulated to three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate, and designated dates, locations, moderators, and topics. Plaintiffs challenged the MOU as an unlawful agreement to monopolize and restrain competition in violation of sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1–2. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the case. The court held that the doctrine of constitutional avoidance permitted the court to resolve this case on alternative grounds, based on antitrust standing. The court explained that the injuries plaintiffs claim were simply not those contemplated by the antitrust laws. Furthermore, plaintiffs failed to allege a clear legal claim, let alone identified a cognizable injury, in regard to their First Amendment claim. View "Johnson v. Commission on Presidential Debates" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of California held that, in light of the text and other indicia of the purpose associated with the relevant constitutional and statutory provisions, Cal. Const., art. XIII C, section 2 does not limit voters' power to raise taxes by statutory initiative. The court explained that a contrary conclusion would require an unreasonably broad construction of the term "local government" at the expense of the people’s constitutional right to direct democracy, undermining the longstanding and consistent view that courts should protect and liberally construe it. In this case, the California Cannabis Coalition drafted a medical marijuana initiative proposing to repeal an existing City ordinance. The Coalition subsequently petitioned for a writ of mandate when the City failed to submit the initiative to the voters at a special election. The supreme court affirmed the court of appeal's holding that article XIII C, section 2 only governs levies that are imposed by local government, and thus directed the superior court to issue a writ of mandate compelling the City to place the initiative on a special ballot in accordance with Elections Code section 9214. View "California Cannabis Coalition v. Upland" on Justia Law

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An initiative proposed to repeal an existing Upland ordinance banning medical marijuana dispensaries, to adopt regulations permitting and establishing standards for up to three dispensaries, and to require that each pay an “annual Licensing and Inspection fee” of $75,000. The petition requested a special election. The signatures of registered voters met the threshold for triggering consideration of the initiative (Elections Code 9214). The city accepted a certificate of sufficiency and was obligated to adopt the initiative without alteration, immediately order a special election, or order an agency report. It ordered a report, which concluded that the $75,000 “fee” would exceed the costs incurred from issuing licenses and annual inspections and that the excess would constitute a general tax, so the initiative could not be voted on during a special election but, under California Constitution article XIII C, had to be submitted at the next general election. The city council provided direction for submitting the initiative in November 2016, the next general election. The California Supreme Court held that that article XIII C does not constrain voters’ constitutional power to propose and adopt initiatives and that under article II, section 11 and Elections Code, the initiative should be submitted at a special election, Article XIII C does not limit voters’ “power to raise taxes by statutory initiative.” View "California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland" on Justia Law