Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court granted in part the petition for a writ of mandamus sought by Safe Surgery Arkansas and Laurie Barber (SSA) seeking to compel the Arkansas Secretary of State to count signatures SSA obtained in support of a ballot petition for a referendum on Act 579 of 2019, holding the new requirements of Act 376 of 2019 were not in effect at the time SSA filed its proposed referendum and supporting signatures. Act 376 added additional requirements for getting a referendum on the election ballot. The Secretary of State had refused to count most of the signatures SSA obtained in support of the ballot petition on the grounds that they were obtained in violation of Act 376. In this petition, SSA sought to have the signatures counted pursuant to the pre-Act 376 legal framework, arguing, inter alia, that Act 376's emergency clause was defective, rendering ineffective the changes in Act 376 until after SSA had already filed its ballot petition. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that Act 376's emergency clause was ineffective and that a writ of mandamus directing the Secretary of State to address SSA's filings under the pre-Act 376 framework was the only adequate remedy. View "Safe Surgery Arkansas v. Thurston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court declining to order a new 2019 Democratic primary election for municipal office in the city of Bridgeport pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 9-329a(b), holding that the trial court did not err in determining that Plaintiffs lacked standing to invoke section 9-329a(a)(1) and that Plaintiffs failed to establish that they were entitled to an order directing a new primary election under section 9-329a(a)(2). Plaintiffs, registered Democrats residing in the city, brought this action alleging that improprieties leading up to the primary election rendered the result so unreliable that it must be set aside. The trial court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss the action for lack of aggrievement with respect to Plaintiff's claim brought pursuant to section 9-329a(a)(1) but denied the motion with respect to the claims brought pursuant to section 9-329a(1)(2). After a trial, the court rendered judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiffs lacked standing to bring a claim under section 9-329a(a)(1) because they were not aggrieved; and (2) Plaintiffs failed to establish that they were entitled to an order directing a new special primary election. View "Lazar v. Ganim" on Justia Law

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A Maryland law requiring newspapers, among other platforms, to publish on their websites, as well as retain for state inspection, certain information about the political ads they decide to carry, violates the First amendment. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the preliminary injunctive relief awarded by the district court and explained that, while Maryland's law tries to serve important aims, the state has gone about this task in too circuitous and burdensome a manner to satisfy constitutional scrutiny. The court agreed with the district court that the law is a content-based law that targets political speech and compels newspapers, among other platforms, to carry certain messages on their websites. The court declined to decide whether strict or exacting scrutiny should apply to a disclosure law like the one at issue, and held that the law failed under the more forgiving exact scrutiny standard. View "The Washington Post v. McManus" on Justia Law

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Alaska law limits the amount an individual can contribute to a candidate for political office, or to an election-oriented group other than a political party, to $500 per year. Alaska Stat. 15.13.070(b)(1). Plaintiffs contributed the maximum amounts permitted but wanted to contribute more. They challenged the limits under the First Amendment. The district court and Ninth Circuit upheld the statute as furthering a “sufficiently important state interest” and “closely drawn” to that end. The Supreme Court vacated and remanded, citing its precedent in Randall v. Sorrell (2006), which invalidated a Vermont law that limited individual contributions on a per-election basis to $400 to a candidate for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, or other statewide office, $300 to a candidate for state senator, and $200 to a candidate for state representative. A contribution limit that is too low can “prove an obstacle to the very electoral fairness it seeks to promote.” Alaska’s $500 individual-to-candidate contribution limit is substantially lower than limits that have previously been upheld; the individual-to-candidate contribution limit is substantially lower than comparable limits in other states. Alaska’s $500 contribution limit applies uniformly to all offices while other states have limits above $500 for candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor. Alaska’s contribution limit is not adjusted for inflation and is the same as it was 23 years ago. View "Thompson v. Hebdon" on Justia Law

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The San Diego County (County) Board of Supervisors approved an amendment to the County's general land use plan, which would have allowed for the development of over 2,100 homes in a previously designated rural area of the County. Residents opposed to the change in land use circulated a referendum petition and gathered enough signatures to have the matter placed on an election ballot. To prevent an election, the land developer filed a petition for writ of mandate, contending the referendum petition was illegal and void as a matter of law. The court denied the writ petition. The issues this case presented for the Court of Appeal's review were: (1) whether the referendum petition complied with the full text requirement under Elections Code section 91471; and (2) the referendum petition's legality in challenging a single legislative act even though the Board of Supervisors executed several concurrent, associated legislative acts. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Molloy v. Vu" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court exercised its original jurisdiction to entertain an emergency petition for a writ of mandate that would forbid the Secretary of State from enforcing portions of the recently enabled Presidential Tax Transparency and Accountability Act, Cal. Elec. Code 6880 et seq. The Supreme Court granted that writ, holding that portions of the Act conflict with Cal. Const. art. II, 5(c) and are therefore invalid. Specifically, the Court held that Elections Code sections 6883 and 6884 are invalid under article II, section 5(c) insofar as they require someone who is recognized as a candidate for the office of President of the United States to file with the Secretary of State federal income tax returns for the five most recent taxable years as a necessary condition for appearing on the primary election ballot of a qualified political party. The Court held that this additional prerequisite conflicts with the California Constitution's specification of an inclusive open presidential primary ballot and therefore cannot lawfully be enforced. View "Patterson v. Padilla" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed Katrina D. Keith's claim seeking a writ of prohibition requiring the Lawrence County Board of Elections and its members (collectively, the Board) to remove Samuel T. Cramblit II's name from the ballot and prohibiting the Board from counting the votes Cramblit received as a candidate for the officer of Ironton Mayor in the November 5, 2019 general election, holding that Keith failed to state a claim in prohibition. Keith, Ironton's current mayor and Cramblit's opponent in the election, argued that the Board should not have certified Cramblit's name to the ballot because he did not meet the residency qualification for the office under Ironton's charter. The Supreme Court dismissed Keith's claim, holding that Keith failed to state a valid claim in prohibition because the Board did not exercise quasi-judicial power regarding Cramblit's candidacy. View "State ex rel. Keith v. Lawrence County Board of Elections" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs claimed that the California Secretary of State misinterpreted and failed to properly enforce, Elections Code section 14201, which requires the posting and availability of facsimile ballot materials printed in languages other than English at certain polling places. The court of appeal concluded the Secretary properly assessed the need for language assistance on a precinct, rather than county-wide, basis. The Secretary acted within his discretion in looking to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (52 U.S.C. 10101) to inform his interpretation of “single language minority,” terminology used in both section 14201 and the Voting Rights Act. However, in tying his language assistance determinations to the list of jurisdictions determined by the Director of the Census and Attorney General to be subject to the requirements of the Voting Rights Act, the Secretary erroneously imported into state law the federal Act’s higher percentage threshold of voting-age citizens who are members of a single language minority group (five percent, rather than three percent as specified by state law). View "Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles v. Padilla" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that Missouri's lobbying requirements violate his freedom of speech and right to petition the government, and that the law is facially invalid because ordinary citizens do not have fair notice of whom it covers. The Eighth Circuit vacated the district court's order denying plaintiff a preliminary injunction. The court held that Missouri's application of the law to plaintiff violates the First Amendment, because his political activities did not involve the transfer of money or anything of value, either to him or anyone else, and Missouri's interest in transparency did not reflect the seriousness of the actual burden on his First Amendment rights. The court also held that, even though the law does not define or otherwise explain what "designated" means, it is not vague. Instead, the court applied the word's common and ordinary meaning, in context, and held that, just because the law is broad does not mean that it is ambiguous, much less constitutionally vague. Accordingly, the court remanded for further consideration of plaintiff's request for a permanent injunction. View "Calzone v. Summers" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged the 2018 election for lieutenant governor, an election in which more than 3.7 million Georgians cast a vote. They alleged defects in electronic voting machines cast doubt on the election in which Geoff Duncan defeated Sarah Riggs Amico by 123,172 votes. To prevail, a party contesting an election must therefore offer evidence, not merely theories or conjecture, that places in doubt the result of an election. "And although the technology our State has used to conduct elections has changed over time, the burden a party carries when challenging the result of an election has not. The Petitioners in this case have not carried that burden." View "Coalition for Good Governance v. Raffensperger" on Justia Law