by
The American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) challenged the Philadelphia City Commissioners’ failure to purge the city’s voter rolls of registered voters who are currently incarcerated due to a felony conviction. Because state law prohibits felons from voting while they are in prison, the ACRU argues that the National Voter Registration Act, 52 U.S.C. 50207, requires the Commissioners to remove them from the voter rolls. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The unambiguous text of the Act states that while states are required to make reasonable efforts to remove registrants for certain reasons, states are merely permitted—not required— to provide for removal of registrants from the official list based on criminal conviction. The 2002 Help America Vote Act, 42 U.S.C. 15301, also cited by ACRU, contains no private right of enforcement. View "American Civil Rights Union v. Philadelphia City Commissioner" on Justia Law

by
Under Illinois law, a political party that has not attained sufficient votes in past elections must field candidates for all offices on the ballot in the political subdivision in which it wishes to compete. In the 2012 election, the Libertarian Party could field a candidate for Kane County auditor only if it also proposed candidates for six other offices. In its suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the Party argued that the full-slate requirement violated its right of political association under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The Seventh Circuit agreed, rejecting an argument that the requirement is justified by its interests in political stability, preventing ballot overcrowding, and avoiding voter confusion. The core of the fundamental right to political association is the right to band together in a political party to advance a policy agenda by electing the party’s members to office. That necessarily includes the candidates’ right to appear on the ballot under the party banner. For a minor party and its nominees, Illinois’s full-slate requirement extinguishes those rights unless the party fields candidates in races it may want no part of. This is a severe burden on fundamental constitutional rights. Illinois has not offered a compelling state interest to justify it. By incentivizing minor parties to manufacture frivolous candidacies, the full-slate requirement actually thwarts the interests Illinois invokes. View "Libertarian Party of Illinois v. Cunningham" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court denied writs of mandamus requested by Relators - the members of the Athens County and Medina County Committees of Petitioners - seeking to compel Respondents - Relators’ respective county board of elections - to certify initiative petitions to the November ballot. The petitions, which proposed the adoption of a county charter, were denied on the grounds that they were invalid. The Supreme Court held that the boards of elections were justified in finding the petitions invalid and that that issue was dispositive. Because the committees failed to establish a clear legal duty on the part of the boards to place the charter petitions on the ballot, the committees were not entitled to writs of mandamus. View "State ex rel. McGinn v. Walker" on Justia Law

by
The State appealed a superior court order granting news reporter Nicholas Reid’s (Reid) motion to quash the State’s subpoena compelling him to testify against defendant Carl Gibson. Republican candidate Yvonne Dean-Bailey (Dean-Bailey) was running in a May 19, 2015 special election for State Representative from Rockingham County District 32. On May 14, 2015, the defendant, a volunteer for the opposing Democratic Party candidate, allegedly issued a false press release stating that Dean-Bailey was dropping out of the race. Reid, who was covering the special election as a reporter for the Concord Monitor, received the e-mail with the attached press release and became suspicious because of the form and content of the e-mail and attached file. He contacted a representative of the New Hampshire Republican Party who was unaware of Dean-Bailey withdrawing from the race. Reid then wrote a short article for the May 15, 2015 issue of the newspaper titled “Email claiming Dean-Bailey is conceding called a hoax.” Reid reviewed the metadata of the press release which lead to him finding a way to contact Gibson. Based upon that conversation and his conversations with other sources, Reid wrote a second article published in the Concord Monitor on May 16 under the headline, “Man who sent hoax email from GOP candidate had ‘too many beers’ before ‘prank.’” Defendant was ultimately charged with “False Documents, Names or Endorsements,” attempted voter suppression, and voter suppression. Reid was served with a subpoena requiring him “to testify what [he] know[s] relating to a criminal matter to be heard and tried between the State . . . and Carl Gibson.” Reid moved to quash the subpoena on the ground that it violated his “newsgathering privilege” under Part I, Article 22 of the New Hampshire Constitution and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. On appeal, the State argued that the trial court erred “by expanding the scope of the news-gathering privilege to include non-confidential sources.” Although Reid based his motion to quash upon the ground that it violated his newsgathering privilege under the State and Federal Constitutions, the trial court based its decision solely upon the State Constitution. The New Hampshire Supreme Court held the trial court’s determination was erroneous, and remanded for the trial court to consider, in the first instance, Reid’s federal constitutional claim. View "New Hampshire v. Gibson" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court denied Relators’ petition seeking a writ of mandamus compelling the Lorain County Board of Election to certify an initiative petition for the November ballot. The petition sought to repeal a county permissive sales tax. The Lorain County Board of Elections voted not to place the petition on the general election ballot on the grounds that Ohio Rev. Code 5739.022 does not permit an initiative petition to repeal a county permissive tax that was not passed or enacted as an emergency measure. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that section 5739.022(A) did not provide Relators the clear legal right to have the petition placed on the November ballot. View "State ex rel. Repeal Lorain County Permissive Sales Tax Committee v. Lorain County Board of Elections" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner sought review of the Attorney General’s certified ballot title for Initiative Petition 2 (2018) (IP 2). IP 2, if enacted, would change the way that signatures were gathered to put an initiative measure or a referendum on the ballot. Currently, once the Secretary of State determines that an initiative or referendum petition meets certain minimum requirements, the chief petitioners or petition circulators must collect signatures from registered voters on signature sheets prepared in accordance with the Secretary of State’s rules. IP 2 would make two major changes to those requirements: (1) it would require the Secretary of State to adopt rules permitting registered voters to sign initiative and referendum petitions digitally; and (2) it would require the Secretary of State to create and administer a website where registered voters could sign petitions digitally. Petitioner challenged the caption, the "yes" vote result statement, and the summary. The Oregon Supreme Court determined changes were warranted to the ballot title, but not the "yes" vote result statement or the summary. The ballot title was referred back to the Attorney General for modification. View "Unger v. Rosenblum" on Justia Law

by
In an election contest for a seat on the Baker County Board of Education, the Georgia Supreme Court granted the application for interlocutory appeal filed by Brendette Williams, who challenged the trial court’s denial of her motion to dismiss the contest petition filed by Sharon Heard, her opponent in the primary election. The Court concluded Heard’s challenge to the primary election was now moot, and therefore vacated the trial court’s order and remanded this case for the contest action to be dismissed. Furthermore, the Court concluded that because the trial judge did not meet the requirements of OCGA 21-2-523 (b) to preside over this action, upon remand, a judge meeting such requirements had to be selected to preside over entry of the dismissal. View "Williams v. Heard" on Justia Law

by
Gordon Roy Butt sought to run for Colorado senate for the Libertarian Party in a 2013 recall election. The Secretary of State denied his request to circulate a petition because his request came after the deadline as then set by section 1-12-117(1). Butt and the Libertarian Party (collectively, “the Party”) sued the Secretary under section 1-1-113, C.R.S. (2017), alleging that the statutory deadline conflicted with the Colorado Constitution. Within the section 1-1-113 proceeding, the Party also raised a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. 1983 (2012), and an accompanying request for an award of attorney’s fees under 42 U.S.C. 1988 (2012), alleging, inter alia, a First Amendment violation. The district court found for the Party on the state constitutional claim, and did not address the section 1983 claim. After the Colorado Supreme Court denied appellate review on a split vote, further proceedings occurred before the district court. The case was appealed once again, and the Supreme Court denied review again. Nine months later, the Party returned to district court seeking summary judgment on its section 1983 claim and, in the alternative, an attorney’s fee award under section 1988 on the ground that the Party had been successful on its state constitutional claim. The district court denied the Party’s request for attorney’s fees, finding that it had not pursued fees in a timely manner. It also dismissed the section 1983 claim as moot due to the General Assembly’s 2014 amendment of section 1-12-117(1). The court of appeals reversed the district court, holding that although the Party’s section 1983 claim was moot, the request for attorney’s fees under section 1988 was appropriate so long as the section 1983 claim was substantial, stemmed from the same nucleus of operative facts as the state constitutional claim, and was reasonably related to the plaintiff’s ultimate success. The court remanded the case to the district court to apply this test to determine whether the Party was entitled to fees. The Colorado Secretary of State appealed, and the Supreme Court reversed: a section 1983 claim may not be brought in a section 1-1-113 proceeding. The language of that section repeatedly refers to "this code," meaning the Colorado Election Code. Therefore, a section 1-1-113 proceeding is limited to allegations of a “breach or neglect of duty or other wrongful act” under the election code itself. § 1-1-113(1). We emphasize that Colorado courts remain entirely open for adjudication of section 1983 claims, including on an expedited basis if a preliminary injunction is sought, and that therefore section 1-1-113 does not run afoul of the Supremacy Clause. View "Williams v. Libertarian Party" on Justia Law

by
Ryan Frazier ran as a Republican candidate for United States Senate. After the Colorado Secretary of State determined that Frazier had not gathered enough sufficient signatures to appear on the ballot, Frazier challenged the Secretary’s determination under section 1-1-113, C.R.S. (2017), arguing that the Secretary improperly invalidated hundreds of signatures that substantially complied with the Colorado Election Code. Frazier also brought a claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 (2012) arguing that certain Colorado statutes prohibiting non-resident circulators from gathering signatures violated the First Amendment. Frazier filed an accompanying request for attorney’s fees as authorized by 42 U.S.C. 1988 (2012). The district court ruled that the Secretary had properly invalidated certain signatures such that Frazier could not appear on the primary ballot. Frazier then appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court, which remanded for reconsideration of a number of signatures under the appropriate standard. On remand, the district court found that additional signatures substantially complied with the code, providing Frazier with sufficient signatures to appear on the Republican primary ballot for United States Senate. No ruling was made on Frazier’s section 1983 claim. Frazier then sought attorney’s fees pursuant to section 1988. The Secretary opposed the fee request, arguing that federal claims such as section 1983 may not be brought in summary proceedings under section 1-1-113. The district court disagreed, finding Frazier was entitled to an award of attorney’s fees. The Colorado Supreme Court held that where the language of section 1-1-113 allows a claim to be brought against an election official who has allegedly committed a "breach or neglect of duty or other wrongful act" under the Colorado Election Code, it refers to a breach of duty or other wrongful action under the Colorado Election Code, not a section 1983 claim. "Colorado courts remain entirely open for the adjudication of section 1983 claims, including on an expedited basis if a preliminary injunction is sought, and that therefore section 1-1-113 does not run afoul of the Supremacy Clause." View "Frazier v. Williams" on Justia Law

by
The Republican Party sued the Cook County Board of Election Commissioners, arguing that the Board must include on the ballot a candidate that the Party slated for the House of Representatives in the November 2016 election. The Board had never announced a plan to exclude the candidate. The district court entered an injunction compelling the Board to keep this candidate on the ballot. The Seventh Circuit remanded with instructions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Party’s dispute with two additional defendants, elected as ward committeemen, based on the Party’s refusal to seat them, is not a federal claim. The Party’s “anticipatory federal contention,” that ”if state law does not respect the Party’s eligibility rules, then Illinois violates the First Amendment,” was only a potential response to a potential contention by the committeemen that all elected ward committeemen must be seated on the Party’s central committee. The district judge did not consider the fact that public officials were not contesting the Party’s claims or the possibility that he was issuing an advisory opinion. If the committeemen had sued the Party, demanding membership on its central committee, their claim would have arisen under Illinois law. View "Cook County Republican Party v. Sapone" on Justia Law