Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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The Supreme Court conditionally granted mandamus relief and directed the Austin City Council to revise the ballot language for a proposed ordinance that would establish minimum standards for the Austin Police Department "to enhance public safety and police oversight, transparency, and accountability," holding that Relator was entitled to relief, in part.The City Council chose to place the proposed ordinance before the voters for approval at the next general election. Rather than use the caption set for in the petition as the ballot language, the City Council approved its own description of the ordinance to be used and the ballot using language that differed materially from the caption in the petition. Relator brought this proceeding challenging the chosen ballot language. The Supreme Court conditionally granted mandamus relief, holding (1) the City correctly determined that the caption's omission of the ordinance's financial impact violated state law, requiring modification; but (2) the Austin City Charter forbade the remainder of the City's revisions to the petitioned caption. View "In re Petricek" on Justia Law

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Individuals and organizations affiliated with the West Virginia Democratic Party challenged West Virginia Code 3-6-2(c)(3), under which election ballots for partisan state and federal elections are organized for each contest by listing first the candidates affiliated with the political party whose candidate for President received the most votes in West Virginia in the most recent presidential election. The plaintiffs contend that because candidates appearing first on the ballot “almost always” receive an increased vote share based solely on this priority status, this system favors candidates based on their political affiliation, violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments.The district court rejected jurisdictional challenges, including that the plaintiffs lacked standing and that the complaint presented a nonjusticiable political question, and agreed with the plaintiffs on the merits. The Fourth Circuit vacated after holding that the district court properly asserted subject matter jurisdiction and a court may consider the lawfulness of the statute despite its partisan context. A ballot-order statute, which provides a neutral rule for listing candidates’ names on the ballot, does not violate the Constitution even though the statute may impair a candidate’s ability to attract “the windfall vote.” Such a statute places at most a modest burden on free speech and equal protection rights. Any modest burden imposed by the statute on the plaintiffs’ rights is justified by the state’s important interests in promoting voting efficiency and in reducing voter confusion and error. View "Nelson v. Warner" on Justia Law

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In this original action, the Supreme Court denied a writ of prohibition to prevent the Miami County Board of Elections from certifying Jessica Lopez's candidacy for municipal court judge to the November 2021 ballot, holding that Relator, Miami County Municipal Court Judge Gary Nasal, was not entitled to relief.Judge Nasal filed a protest with the Board challenging its decision to certify Lopez to the ballot as a candidate for municipal court judge in the November 2021 election. The Board denied the protest without explanation. Judge Nasal subsequently commenced this action for a writ of prohibition. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that the Board did not abuse its discretion or act in clear disregard of applicable law by denying the protest. View "State ex rel. Nasal v. Miami County Board of Elections" on Justia Law

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In Georgia, in-person voters can vote on election day or during advance voting. Absentee voters, after applying for and receiving an absentee ballot, are responsible for returning their ballots directly to the county election office, depositing them into a ballot drop box, or mailing them to that office. The statute requires neither the state of Georgia nor county governments to cover the cost of postage for mailing ballots. Plaintiffs alleged that the Twenty-Fourth Amendment or the Equal Protection Clause required Georgia to pay for postage for voters who choose to return their absentee ballots by mail; by not covering the cost of postage, Georgia is imposing an unconstitutional “poll tax” or fee on some absentee voters.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Requiring the payment of postage is not a “tax” or unconstitutional fee on voting. Georgia voters, without paying any money, have several options; even those voters who choose to mail in their absentee ballots buy postage from the U.S. Postal Service and the proceeds from postage sales are paid to USPS—not the state of Georgia— to account for the costs associated with delivering the mail. These voters are buying services from USPS. Georgia does not receive any money from those sales. View "Black Voters Matter Fund v. Secretary of State for the State of Georgia" on Justia Law