Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

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In 2018, Florida voters approved Amendment 4, a state constitutional amendment that automatically restored voting rights to ex-felons who had completed all of the terms of their sentences. Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the "legal financial obligation" (LFO) requirement in Senate Bill 7066, which implemented the Amendment and required payment of all fines, fees, and restitution imposed as part of the sentence. The district court issued a preliminary injunction requiring the state to allow the named plaintiffs to register and vote if they are able to show that they are genuinely unable to pay their LFOs and would otherwise be eligible to vote under Amendment 4.In 2020, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the preliminary injunction with respect to the “wealth discrimination” claims. In 2021, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of an Equal Protection claim based on gender discrimination, on behalf of “low-income women of color who face unemployment, low wages, and difficulty paying off their financial debts at much higher rates than their male and white female counterparts.” The plaintiffs could prevail on their constitutional challenges only if they could “show that gender was a motivating factor in the adoption of the pay-to-vote system,” and they presented no evidence of intentional discrimination. View "McCoy v. Governor of Florida" on Justia Law

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On April 5, 2021, Michael Capriglione was elected to a two-year term as a Commissioner of the Town of Newport. On the eve of his swearing-in ceremony, the Attorney General, on behalf of the State of Delaware, petitioned for a writ of quo warranto contending that Capriglione was prohibited from serving as a Commissioner because he had been convicted of misdemeanor official misconduct for actions he took as Newport’s police chief in 2018. That offense, the State argued, was a disqualifying “infamous crime” under Art. II, sec. 21 of the Delaware Constitution. The Superior Court stayed Capriglione’s swearing in to resolve this question and eventually held that he was constitutionally barred from holding public office. The Delaware Supreme Court considered Capriglione’s appeal on an expedited basis, hearing oral argument on July 14, 2021. On July 16, the Supreme Court issued an order reversing the Superior Court and allowing Capriglione to take the oath of office. In this opinion, the Court explained its reasons for doing so: under Section 21, only felonies can be disqualifying “infamous” crimes. View "Capriglione v. Delaware, et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed in part Plaintiff's appeal from the decision of the district court declining to overturn the results of the election for the office of San Juan County Commissioner, holding that Plaintiff lacked standing to file suit.In 2018, Defendant declared that he would run for the office of San Juan County Commissioner. To prove he was a county resident and therefore eligible to run for county offense, Defendant provided coordinates and satellite images for his San Juan County residence. After Defendant won the election, Plaintiff, who was also running for county commissioner, brought this lawsuit arguing that Defendant did not live at the coordinates he provided with his declaration of candidacy. The district court declined to overturn the results of the election. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff lacked standing to file suit because he failed to allege a sufficiently particularized injury; and (2) the district court properly rejected Defendant's cross-appeal for attorney fees. View "Laws v. Grayeyes" on Justia Law

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Appellant Daniel Mohn was a Republican committeeperson of Appellee, the Bucks County Republican Committee, for the voting district of Yardley Borough. In 2014, he was first elected to a two-year term, and reelected in 2016. After the election, the acting chairman of Appellee’s Ethics Committee sent a letter to Appellant advising him that complaints had been lodged by Bryan McNamara and Nicholas and Sandra Liberato, alleging among other things, that Appellant had “actively campaigned against an endorsed candidate for committeeman and disparaged the importance and value of the Bucks County Republican Committee Sample Ballot.” In his correspondence to Appellant, the acting chairman also related that an investigatory hearing had been scheduled before the Ethics Committee. Appellant asked for, and was granted, a short continuance. Appellant's counsel took the position that the Code of Ethics reposited in the Committee Rules applied solely to elected and appointed public officials, not party officials. As such, counsel opined that the Ethics Committee lacked the authority to conduct any proceedings and asserted that the hearing should be cancelled. In the alternative, counsel reiterated his request for a longer continuance and complained that he hadn’t been provided with requested documents. The hearing before the Ethics Committee apparently proceeded nevertheless, and at the conclusion of the hearing, the Executive Committee voted to disqualify Appellant as a committeeperson and declare his office vacant. Appellant and two other individuals filed a complaint in the court of common pleas seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent their removal as committeepersons, as well as an award of attorneys’ fees as a sanction for purported bad faith. The plaintiffs also filed a separate emergency motion asking the court to enjoin the conduct of any hearing before the Executive Committee. The issue before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in this matter reduced to a question of the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania courts to intervene in the internal affairs of political parties. The Court credited Appellee's position that “through its internal, self-organized apparatus, [it was] permitted to construe its own governing rules and to disqualify elected occupants of its offices from participation in its affairs by exercising its own judgment, free from judicial interference.” View "Mohn v. Bucks Co. Republican Committee" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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