Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

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Andrew Bell challenged the denial of his application for mandamus and injunctive relief in which he sought to compel Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to include Bell’s name as an independent candidate on the ballot for the November 3, 2020 election for Georgia House District 85. Among other things, Bell claimed that he collected the signatures required for him to qualify as a candidate, and that the trial court erred by not requiring the Secretary to place Bell’s name on the ballot. Because the November 3, 2020 general election is over and the ballots have been printed, cast, and counted, however, the Georgia Supreme Court concluded there was no such ballot upon which Bell could still be placed, thus the Court could not grant Bell the relief he requested. This appeal was dismissed as moot. View "Bell v. Raffensperger" on Justia Law

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A national political organization engaged an Alaska media consultant to reserve over $1 million worth of television advertising time prior to the 2018 gubernatorial primary race. The national organization did not register with the Alaska Public Office Commission, and did not report the reservations to the agency. The Commission concluded that this conduct violated a statute requiring all entities to register before making any “expenditures,” including promises or agreements to transfer something of value, to influence an election. The superior court affirmed the Commission’s decision on appeal. The national organization appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court, arguing that the Commission defined “expenditures” too broadly. The Supreme Court concluded the Commission reasonably interpreted the campaign finance statute to include agreements to purchase television advertising, even when these agreements were not legally binding. The Court therefore affirmed the superior court’s decision affirming the Commission’s order. View "Republican Governors Association v. Alaska Public Offices Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Relators were entitled to a limited writ of mandamus ordering Respondents, the members of the Columbus City Council, to find sufficient a proposed municipal ordinance initiative and to proceed with the process for an initiative ordinance under Columbus City Charter Section 43-1 et seq.Relators sought a writ of mandamus to compel Respondents to submit to Columbus city electors a proposed municipal ordinance initiative on the May 4, 2021 primary election ballot. The council refused to submit the initiative to electors, finding that the initiative petition was deficient in form. The Supreme Court granted a limited writ, holding (1) the council abused its discretion in finding that the petition was insufficient; and (2) a limited writ of mandamus requiring the council to move forward with the process set forth in section 43-1 et seq. was proper. View "State ex rel. Gil-Llamas v. Hardin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of the Montana Republican Party and denying the motion for summary judgment filed by the Commissioner of Political Practices (COPP) in this campaign finance complaint, holding that the district court did not err in determining that COPP lacked authority to issue a subpoena for production of documents.The Montana Democratic Party filed a campaign finance complaint with COPP alleging that the Montana Republican Party had failed to comply with statutory reporting and disclosure requirements. As part of its investigation, COPP issued a subpoena for production of documents, commanding the Republican Party to produce specified documents relating to campaign practices and expenditures. COPP issued the subpoena pursuant to the authority of Mont. Code Ann. 13-37-111. The district court granted summary judgment to the Republican Party, concluding that section 13-37-111 did not confer COPP with the authority to issue subpoenas for documents. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err. View "Commissioner of Political Practices v. Republican Party" on Justia Law

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In December 2020, Jackson and Pope each filed a statement as an independent candidate for village president. Jackson's petition had 50 voter signatures. Pope's had 32 signatures. An objection alleged that the number of signatures was insufficient under 10 ILCS 5/10-3. At an Electoral Board hearing, Schmidt, the Glendale Heights clerk and election official, testified that the Du Page County Clerk’s Office sent an e-mail indicating that “due to COVID, we are reducing the points of contact, here is a list of forms.” Schmidt stated that she read the State Board of Elections 2021 Candidate’s Guide, and, relying on the numbers “for non-partisan” elections, concluded that 24 signatures were required. Schmidt admitted that she did not understand the distinction between independent and nonpartisan. She acknowledged that she was never notified that the statutorily required number of signatures had been reduced because of the pandemic. Both candidates testified that they relied on Schmidt's representations.The Board overruled the objection, finding that both candidates justifiably relied on Schmidt’s statements and excusing their statutory violations. The trial and appellate courts affirmed.The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, noting that the lowest possible correctly calculated number of signatures would be 118. While ballot access is a substantial right, the best safeguard of that right is fidelity to the Election Code and not unrestrained discretion by a local election official inexplicably confused about the statutory distinction between partisan and nonpartisan elections. A precise mathematical formula, clear and certain in its application, prevents impermissible political bias. View "Corbin v. Schroeder" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court struck a proposed amendment that would add a new section to Fla. Const. art. X, 33, holding that the language in the ballot summary indicating that the proposed qualifiedly "[p]ermits" the use and distribution of recreational marijuana was affirmatively misleading.The Attorney General petitioned the Supreme Court for an advisory opinion regarding the validity of an initiative petition titled "Adult Use of Marijuana." At issue was whether the proposed amendment complied with the single-subject requirement of Fla. Const. art. XI, 3 and whether the ballot title and summary complied with the clarity requirements of Fla. Stat. 101.161(1). The Supreme Court struck the proposed amendment, holding that the initiative petition was clearly and conclusively defective on the ground that the ballot summary failed to comply with Fla. Stat. 101.161. View "Advisory Opinion to Attorney General Re: Adult Use of Marijuana" on Justia Law

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Elam, seeking election to the office of Riverdale village trustee at the consolidated general election occurring on April 6, 2021, filed nomination papers to be included on the ballot as an independent candidate on December 21, 2020. Attached to Elam’s nomination papers were 26 pages of signatures collected and certified by multiple petition circulators. Days later, objectors challenged Elam’s nomination papers, arguing that three individuals who circulated Elam’s nomination papers for signatures as an independent candidate in the 2021 consolidated general election violated statutory law by previously circulating nomination papers on behalf of a Democratic candidate in the 2021 consolidated primary election.The Municipal Officers Electoral Board for the Village of Riverdale determined that Election Code section 10-4, 10 ILCS 5/10-4 prohibits such a circumstance of “dual-circulation." The circuit court, appellate court, and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. The policy reasons for the “dual-circulator” prohibition are evident in situations where a circulator solicits signatures for a party candidate in the primary (independent candidates do not appear on the primary ballot) and an independent candidate in the general election, both of whom will challenge one another for the same office in the general election. Section 10-4 prohibits situations such as this, which would undoubtedly cause voter confusion. View "Elam v. Municipal Officers Electoral Board for the Village of Riverdale" on Justia Law

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In this dispute over a Nibley City ordinance approving a development project on property owned by Return Development LLC the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court finding that a referendum petition opposing the ordinance was sufficient as a matter of law under the Election Code, as modified by Executive Order 2020-14, holding that the district court erred.Several citizens of the City collected signatures in support of a referendum petition, some of which were collected through a process initiated by a document sent to voters by mail, which directed them to an online version of the referendum packet. The Nibley City Recorder rejected the petition on the ground that the signatures collected in response to the mailer were not valid. The district court overruled that decision. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the signatures procured through the mailed document were not valid because they did not meet the requirements of Utah Code 20A-7-604(4); and (2) this statutory requirement was not altered when the governor suspended enforcement of some Election Code provisions in Executive Order 2020-14, which was entered in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. View "Smith v. Return Development LLC" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit sua sponte vacated its previous opinion and substituted the following opinion.In 2015, plaintiffs filed suit challenging Alabama's 2011 Photo Voter Identification Law passed by the Alabama legislature as House Bill 19 and codified at Ala. Code 17-9-30. The voter ID law took effect in June 2014 and requires all Alabama voters to present a photo ID when casting in-person or absentee votes. Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent the enforcement of Alabama's voter ID law, alleging that the law violates the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments of the Constitution; Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), 52 U.S.C. 10301; and Section 201 of the VRA, 52 U.S.C. 10501.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting summary judgment in favor of the Secretary, concluding that plaintiffs have failed to identify any genuine disputes of material facts and because no reasonable factfinder could find, based on the evidence presented, that Alabama's voter ID law is discriminatory. The court explained that the burden of providing a photo ID in order to vote is a minimal burden on Alabama's voters—especially when Alabama accepts so many different forms of photo ID and makes acquiring one simple and free for voters who lack a valid ID but wish to obtain one. Therefore, the Alabama voter ID law does not violate the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments of the Constitution, nor does it violate the VRA. View "Greater Birmingham Ministries v. Secretary of State for the State of Alabama" on Justia Law

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CREW filed a citizen complaint with the Federal Election Commission against New Models, a now-defunct non-profit entity, alleging violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act’s (FECA) registration and reporting requirements for “political committees,” 52 U.S.C. 30109(a)(1). After an initial investigation, the Commission deadlocked 2–2 on whether to proceed; an affirmative vote of four commissioners is required to initiate enforcement proceedings. With only two votes in favor of an enforcement action against New Models, the Commission dismissed CREW’s complaint. Two Commissioners explained that New Models did not qualify as a “political committee” under FECA but stated they were also declining to proceed with enforcement in an "exercise of ... prosecutorial discretion,” given the age of the activity and the fact that the organization appears no longer active.The district court granted the Commission summary judgment, reasoning that a nonenforcement decision is not subject to judicial review if the Commissioners who voted against enforcement “place[] their judgment squarely on the ground of prosecutorial discretion.” The Commission’s “legal analyses are reviewable only if they are the sole reason for the dismissal of an administrative complaint.” The D.C. Circuit affirmed. While FECA allows a private party to challenge a nonenforcement decision by the Commission if it is “contrary to law,” this decision was based in part on prosecutorial discretion and is not reviewable. View "Citizens for Responsibility v. Federal Election Committee" on Justia Law