Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries
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
State ex rel. Rhoads v. Hamilton County Board of Elections
The Supreme Court granted in part and denied in part a writ of mandamus sought by Relators, four City of Cincinnati electors, to compel changes to ballot language for a proposed amendment to the Cincinnati City Charter, holding that Relators showed that they were entitled to the writ in part.At issue was an initiative petition proposing amendments to the Cincinnati City Charter. The Hamilton County Board of Elections certified ballot language to which Relators objected. Relators filed this original action against the Board and its members alleging that the certified ballot language misrepresented the proposed amendment and omitted material information. The Supreme Court granted the writ in part and denied it in all other respects, holding that Relators showed that the Board abused its discretion in preparing and certifying only certain ballot language for the proposed amendment. View "State ex rel. Rhoads v. Hamilton County Board of Elections" on Justia Law
Gaspee Project v. Mederos
The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court rejecting Appellants' facial challenge to the Rhode Island comprehensive statutory scheme designed to increase transparency in regard to election-related spending, holding that there was no error.The law at issue required limited disclosure of funding sources responsible for certain independent expenditures and electioneering communications. Appellants challenged the disclosure an disclaimer provisions, arguing that the provisions did not withstand the required degree of scrutiny and infringed on constitutionally protected free-speech, privacy, and associational rights. The trial court dismissed the complaint. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the challenged aspects of Rhode Island's disclosure and disclaimer regime were constitutional. View "Gaspee Project v. Mederos" on Justia Law
State ex rel. Ferarra v. Trumbull County Board of Elections
The Supreme Court granted a limited writ sought by Mark Ferrara and ordered the Trumbull County Board of Elections to determine the number of valid signatures on the part-petition at issue and, if appropriate, to certify Ferrara's name to the ballot, holding that Ferrara was entitled to relief.To appear on the ballot for Brookfield Township trustee Ferrara was required to gather twenty-five qualifying signatures of nomination. Ferrara submitted a nominating petition that consisted of two part-petitions. The Board rejected the second part-petition "due to undercounting of signatures on the circulator's statement." The Supreme Court granted a limited writ ordering the Board to determine the number of valid signatures on Ferrara's second part-petition and, if appropriate, to certify his name to the ballot, holding that the record did not conclusively demonstrate that the Board had verified the signatures on Ferrara's second part-petition. View "State ex rel. Ferarra v. Trumbull County Board of Elections" on Justia Law
State ex rel. Grumbles v. Delaware County Board of Elections
The Supreme Court granted a writ of mandamus ordering the Delaware County Board of Elections to place Relator, Robert "Ben" Grumbles, on the November 2, 2021 election ballot as a candidate for a four-year term as an Orange Township trustee to commence on January 1, 2022, holding that Relator was entitled to the writ.The Board rejected Relator's nominating petition on the basis that he was currently serving a different four-year term commencing on January 1, 2020 as an Orange Township trustee and that Relator was ineligible to run for election to an office he already held. The Supreme Court granted the writ, holding that the board of elections abused its discretion and disregarded applicable law in rejecting Relator's candidacy because there is no statutory provision that bars Relator from being elected to a different seat on the same board of township trustees. View "State ex rel. Grumbles v. Delaware County Board of Elections" on Justia Law
State ex rel. Pennington v. Bivens
The Supreme Court granted a writ of mandamus to compel Whitehall City Attorney Michael T. Bivens to certify the sufficiency of Petitioners' referendum petition for the rejection or approval of a zoning ordinance in the city of Whitehall, holding that Petitioners were entitled to the writ.Bivens rejected the petition not he ground that Petitioners failed to comply with Ohio Rev. Code 731.32's requirement to submit a certified copy of the zoning ordinance to the city auditor before circulating their petition. The Supreme Court granted Bivens' writ petition, holding that that Bivens abused his discretion in determining that Petitioners' referendum petition was insufficient because they had not complied with section 731.32. View "State ex rel. Pennington v. Bivens" on Justia Law
Fay v. Merrill
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court in favor of Defendant, Denise Merrill, Secretary of the State, intros action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief with respect to Defendant's change of the absentee ballot application for the August 11, 2020 primary election to add COVID-19 as a new reason for requesting an absentee ballot pursuant to Executive Order No. 7QQ, holding that the trial court did not err.At issue in this public interest appeal was whether Governor Ned Lamont's executive order, which was later ratified by the legislature and which modified Conn. Gen. Stat. 9-135 by adding COVID-19 as a permissible reason for absentee voting violates Conn. Const. art. VI, 7. The trial court granted jumtgnet for Defendant. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Executive Order No. 7QQ does not violate Article 6, Section 7. View "Fay v. Merrill" on Justia Law
Alaska Public Offices Commission v. Patrick, et al.
In 2012, the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) issued an advisory opinion stating that the contribution limits in Alaska’s campaign finance law were unconstitutional as applied to contributions to independent expenditure groups. In 2018, three individuals filed complaints with APOC alleging that independent expenditure groups had exceeded Alaska’s contribution limits. APOC declined to enforce the contribution limits based on its advisory opinion. The individuals appealed to the superior court, which reversed APOC’s dismissal of the complaints and ordered APOC to reconsider its advisory opinion in light of a recent Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision. APOC appealed, arguing that it should not have been required to enforce laws it viewed as unconstitutional and that its constitutional determination was correct. Because the Alaska Supreme Court found it was error to reverse APOC’s dismissal of the complaints, it reversed the superior court’s order. View "Alaska Public Offices Commission v. Patrick, et al." on Justia Law