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Citizens submitted a referendum petition to challenge Amador Water Agency’s Board Resolution No. 2015-19, adopting new water service rates for Agency customers. The Clerk of the Agency rejected the referendum petition and refused to place it on an election ballot, on the grounds that: (1) the petition was “confusing;” and (2) the rate change, while subject to challenge by initiative, was not subject to referendum. Appellants Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Charlotte Asher, and Laura Boggs appealed the trial court’s denial of their petition for a peremptory writ of mandate against Amador Water Agency, its Clerk, and its Board of Directors (collectively “the Agency”). Appellants argued: (1) the Clerk exceeded her ministerial duties by declaring the petition confusing; and (2) referendum was an appropriate avenue to challenge the new water rates. After review, the Court of Appeal determined: (1) the Clerk exceeded the scope of her ministerial duty and should have certified the referendum petition as adequate; and (2) the Resolution was not subject to referendum. The Court reached a different conclusion in a different case currently under California Supreme Court review. Because the Court concluded the Resolution was not subject to referendum, it affirmed the judgment denying the writ petition. View "Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. v. Amador Water Agency" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the Appellate Division affirming the judgment of Supreme Court directing disclosure of electronic copies of ballots stored by Essex County voting machines in the November 2015 general election, holding that N.Y. Elec. Law 3-222 protects disclosure of ballot copies during the relevant time frame. In December 2015, Petitioner requested the electronic ballot copies preserved by the Essex County Board of Elections (County Board). The County Attorney determined that section 3-222(2), which prohibits examination of "voted ballots" absent a court order or legislative committee direction during the first two years following an election, barred examination of the "voted ballots." In ordering immediate release of the ballot images Supreme Court concluded that section 3-222 did not protect the copies from disclosure and that the two-year limitation on examination of voted ballots outlined in section 3-222(2) did not encompass electronic ballot copies. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that section 3-222(2) prevented the County Board from granting Petitioner's request for disclosure of electronic copies of those ballots. View "Kosmider v. Whitney" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court that invalidated the submission of a proposed constitutional amendment to Kentucky voters in a single-sentence ballot question, holding that the proposed amendment as submitted to the voters in the form of the present ballot question was invalid. Senate Bill 3 (SB 3) was delivered to the Secretary of State (Secretary) to be published and submitted to the electorate at the November 6, 2018 election. Appellees brought this action seeking a declaration that the ballot question failed to inform the voters adequately of the substance of the amendment. The circuit court agreed and allowed the question to appear on the ballot but enjoined the Secretary from certifying the ballots cast for or against the proposed amendment. The Supreme Court held (1) section 256 of the Kentucky Constitution requires the general assembly to submit the full text of a proposed constitutional amendment to the electorate for vote and requires the Secretary to publish the full text of the proposed amendment at least ninety days before the vote; and (2) the proposed amendment was void in this case because the form of the amendment submitted to the electorate for a vote was not the full text. View "Westerfield v. Ward" on Justia Law

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The Oregon Supreme Court considered three separate petitions that challenged the Oregon Attorney General’s ballot title for Initiative Petition 5 (2020). IP 5 would repeal and replace a provision in the Oregon Constitution, Article IV, section 6, that addressed reapportionment of the state’s legislative districts, after each decennial census, the take into account changes in the changes in the distribution of the state’s population. The Supreme Court determined the ballot title did not substantially comply with ORS 250.035(2), and referred the ballot title back to the Attorney General for modification. View "Fletchall v. Rosenblum" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in this case was whether provisions of the Pennsylvania Election Code prohibiting the process by which two or more political organizations place the same candidate on the ballot in a general election for the same office. In the April 26, 2016 primary election, Christopher Rabb secured the Democratic nomination for Representative of the General Assembly’s 200th Legislative District. A few months later, the Working Families Party circulated papers to nominate Rabb as its candidate for the same race. The Supreme Court determined appellants failed to establish the challenged anti-fusion provisions of the Election Code clearly and plainly violated the equal protection clause of the federal or state constitutions, therefore, the order of the Commonwealth Court was affirmed. View "Working Families Party v. Com." on Justia Law

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Under Illinois law, potential candidates for public office must file a nominating petition to gain a place on a political party’s primary ballot. Within a 90-day window, candidates for statewide offices must collect 5,000 signatures from voters in the jurisdiction where the candidate seeks election. Candidates for Cook County offices must collect a number of signatures equal to 0.5% of the qualified voters of the candidate’s party who voted in the most recent general election in Cook County. Applying that formula, Acevedo had to gather 8,236 signatures to appear on the 2018 Democratic primary ballot for Cook County Sheriff. He gathered only 5,654 and was denied a place on the ballot. Acevedo filed suit, alleging violations of his freedom of association and equal protection rights, arguing that the statewide requirement reflects Illinois’s judgment that making candidates collect 5,000 signatures is sufficient to protect the state’s interest in ballot management. Acevedo argued that Illinois could not impose a heightened burden unless doing so furthered a compelling state interest. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. Strict scrutiny is not triggered by the existence of a less burdensome restriction—it is triggered only when the challenged regulation itself imposes a severe burden. Acevedo failed to allege that requiring candidates to gather 8,236 signatures is a constitutionally significant burden. View "Acevedo v. Cook County Officers Electoral Board" on Justia Law

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Indiana counties maintain three‐member election boards: the circuit court clerk and two individuals the clerk appoints, one from each major political party. Marion County used a precinct‐based voting system; its Election Board could establish in‐person early voting “satellite offices” annually by unanimous vote. The Board approved in‐person early voting offices for the 2008 presidential election. It did not approve any satellite offices for 2010, 2012, 2014, or 2016; each year, the two Democrat Board members voted in favor of opening satellite offices, while the Republican Board member voted against. A suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleged that the application of the unanimity requirement and the Republican member’s decision to withhold consent burdened voters’ rights to cast early votes without any relationship to a legitimate government interest. The district court entered a Consent Decree. The Board agreed to establish in‐person early voting satellite offices going forward. The Decree did not address any underlying issues of law. The court denied Indiana’s motion to alter the Decree, finding the Board unanimously ratified the Decree, and that the Decree “was necessary to remedy a probable violation of federal law.” The Board then voted unanimously to replace precinct‐based voting with a vote center plan, with two in‐person early voting satellite offices for primary elections and six for general and municipal elections. Indiana argued the appeal was not moot because the Decree was still in effect. Both sides agreed that the Decree should no longer be in effect. The Seventh Circuit vacated the Decree, declining to address whether the court had authority to enter it, and remanded with instructions to dismiss. View "Common Cause Indiana v. Marion County Election Board" on Justia Law

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The Libertarian Party challenged a state law requiring up to 1% of voters eligible to participate in its primary to sign a nominating petition for a Libertarian candidate to earn a place on the primary ballot. Affirming the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Secretary, the Ninth Circuit applied the balancing framework in Anderson v. Celebrezze, 460 U.S. 780 (1983), and Burdick v. Takushi, 504 U.S. 428 (1992), and held that the State's signature requirement imposed a minimal burden on the Libertarian Party's right to access the primary ballot and thus required a less exacting scrutiny. The panel held that the primary signature requirements reasonably further Arizona's important regulatory interests and therefore justify a modest burden on the Libertarian Party's right to ballot access. The panel also held that the Arizona law did not infringe upon the Libertarian Party's right to free association and did not violate equal protection. View "Arizona Libertarian Party v. Hobbs" on Justia Law

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An incumbent Kentucky state senator and an unsuccessful state candidate sued, alleging that Kentucky statutes violated their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. One (now defunct) campaign finance provision restricted the amount a candidate could loan to his campaign. The challenged ethics provisions prohibit a legislator, candidate for the legislature, or his campaign committee from accepting a campaign contribution from a lobbyist; prohibit a legislator, candidate, or his campaign committee from accepting a campaign contribution from an employer of a lobbyist or a political committee (PAC) during a regular session of the General Assembly; prohibit a legislator or his spouse from accepting “anything of value” from a lobbyist or his employer; and prohibit a lobbyist from serving as a campaign treasurer, and directly soliciting, controlling, or delivering a campaign contribution to a legislator or candidate. The district court dismissed the campaign finance claim as moot but found that the ethics laws burdened “core political speech” and curtailed freedom of association, requiring strict scrutiny. The court upheld the regular session contribution ban but found the other challenged ethics provisions unconstitutional. The Sixth Circuit affirmed with respect to the “regular session” ban but otherwise vacated and reversed. Kentucky’s legislature acted to protect itself and its citizens from corruption; these laws are closely drawn to further Kentucky’s anti-corruption interest and pass constitutional muster. View "Schickel v. Dilger" on Justia Law

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Appellants Levi Guerra, Esther John, and Peter Chiafalo appealed a superior court decision upholding the imposition of a $1,000 file for failing to cast their votes in the United States Electoral College in accordance with the popular vote in the State of Washington. They argued the file was a violation of their Constitutional rights, specifically, the Twelfth Amendment and the First Amendment. The Washington Supreme Court determined the fine imposed pursuant to RCW 29A.56.340 fell within the authority of Article II, section 1 of the federal Constitution. Furthermore, the Court held nothing under Article II, section 1 or the Twelfth Amendment granted the electors absolute discretion in casting their votes, and the fine did not interfere with a federal function. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's judgment. View "In re Guerra" on Justia Law