Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

by
The previous opinion is withdrawn and replaced by the following opinion concurrently filed with this order. On remand from the Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit (1) affirmed the district court's bench trial judgment upholding Alaska's political party-to-party candidate limit; (2) reversed the district court's judgment as to the individual-to-candidate limit, the individual-to-group limit, and the nonresident aggregate limit; and (3) remanded.In this case, at issue are Alaska's limits on contributions made by individuals to candidates, individuals to election-related groups, and political parties to candidates, and also its limit on the total funds a candidate may receive from out-of-state residents. On remand, the court's resolution of the challenges to the political party-to-candidate and nonresident limits remains the same, affirming the district court's decision upholding the former but reversing the decision upholding the latter. However, the panel reversed the district court's decision upholding the individual-to-candidate and individual-to-group limits, applying the five-factor Randall test and concluding that Alaska failed to meet its burden of showing that its individual contribution limit was closely drawn to meet its objectives. The panel explained that, on top of its danger signs, the limit significantly restricts the amount of funds available to challengers to run competitively against incumbents, and the already-low limit is not indexed for inflation. Furthermore, Alaska has not established a special justification for such a low limit. The panel also concluded that, similarly, Alaska has not met its burden of showing that the $500 individual-to-group limit is closely drawn to restrict contributors from circumventing the individual-to-candidate limit. View "Thompson v. Hebdon" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court affirming the decision of the Secretary of State to draft a single ballot question for a direct initiative, holding that the Secretary of State did not err or abuse her discretion in writing a single question in this instance.The direct initiative at issue proposed "An Act To Require Legislative Approval of Certain Transmission Lines, Require Legislative Approval of Certain Transmission Lines and Facilities and Other Projects on Public Reserved Lands and Prohibit the Construction of Certain Transmission Lines in the Upper Kennebec Region.” Appellant argued that the Secretary of State was statutorily required to prepare a separate question for each of three separate issues addressed by the direct initiative. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding that the Secretary of State did not abuse her discretion in reading the initiated bill in the conjunctive and drafting a single, concise ballot question describing the single Act. View "Caiazzo v. Secretary of State" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs are three Ohioans who tried to get initiatives to decriminalize marijuana on local ballots. Soon after they filed their proposed initiatives for November 2020 ballots, Ohio declared a state of emergency because of COVID-19 and ordered Ohioans to stay at home. Ohio’s ballot-access laws require the submission of a petition with a minimum number of ink signatures witnessed by the petition’s circulator. Plaintiffs say the laws, as applied during the COVID-19 pandemic, made it too difficult for them to get any of their initiatives on 2020 ballots. They sought declaratory and injunctive relief but tied their requests for relief exclusively to the November 2020 election. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case. The election has come and gone and, with it, the prospect that plaintiffs can get any of the relief they asked for. The case is moot. View "Thompson v. DeWine" on Justia Law

by
Proposition 13 and Proposition 218 amended the California Constitution to require that any special tax adopted by a local government entity take effect only if approved by a two-thirds vote of the electorate. The court of appeal recently interpreted these constitutional provisions “as coexisting with, not displacing, the people’s power to enact initiatives by majority vote” and held that a measure placed on the ballot as a local citizens’ initiative requires a majority, not a supermajority, vote to pass.Sixty percent of San Franciscans voting on Proposition G— an initiative entitled “Parcel Tax for San Francisco Unified School District”—approved the measure. San Francisco filed suit to establish that Proposition G was valid. The complaint against “All Persons Interested” was answered by Nowak, who argued that Proposition G is invalid because it failed to garner the two-thirds vote required by Proposition 13 and Proposition 218. Nowak also contended that a provision of Proposition 218 unique to parcel taxes, (art. XIII D, 3(a)), requires a two-thirds vote of the electorate to enact Proposition G. Nowak sought to distinguish the earlier decisions on the grounds that Proposition G was conceived and promoted by local government officials and was not a valid citizens’ initiative. The court of appeal rejected all of Nowak’s arguments, standing by its earlier decisions. View "City & County of San Francisco v. All Persons Interested in Matter of Prop. G" on Justia Law

by
Richard and Stacy Andreacchio invoked Mississippi Code Section 23-15-951 (Rev. 2018), not to challenge the determination that the Republican candidate, Kassie Coleman, received more legal votes than her Democrat opponent in the November 2019 election for district attorney of the Tenth Circuit District. The Andreacchios conceded Coleman won her election. However, they contended Coleman was not qualified to run in the first place. The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the trial court did not err in dismissing the Andreacchios complaint: the mechanism to challenge a candidate who was qualified to run for his or her political party’s nomination was provided in Mississippi Code Section 23-15-961 (Rev. 2018). View "Andreacchio v. Coleman" on Justia Law

by
Indiana’s Act 442 allowed election officials to remove a voter from the state’s voter rolls automatically (without directly contacting the person) based on information acquired through a third-party database, “Crosscheck,” which provided the voter lists of multiple states. The Seventh Circuit concluded that Act 442 was preempted by the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), 52 U.S.C. 20507(d), which requires hearing directly from that voter or providing notice to the voter that he would be removed from the rolls if he did not respond and failed to vote in the next two federal general elections.Indiana replaced Act 442 with Act 334, ending Indiana’s participation in Crosscheck in favor of the Indiana Data Enhancement Association, which is functionally identical to Crosscheck. The Act makes county officials responsible for deciding whether to remove a name, deleting Act 442’s requirement that county officials automatically remove the voter from the rolls. Act 334 instructs county officials to determine: whether a presumptive match in another state “is the same individual who is a registered voter of the county”; whether the registration in another state occurred after the presumptively matching Indiana registration; and whether the voter “authorized the cancellation of any previous registration” when the voter registered in the second state.The Seventh Circuit held that Act 334 is also preempted; it renders inapplicable the rule that a voter must personally authorize the cancellation of her registration before the county official may take that step. View "Common Cause Indiana v. Sullivan" on Justia Law

by
A recall committee submitted an application to the Alaska Division of Elections seeking to recall the governor, citing lack of fitness, incompetence, and neglect of duties as grounds. The director refused to certify the application, asserting that it was not legally or factually sufficient. The committee challenged the director’s decision in superior court. That court granted summary judgment for the committee, deciding that except for one allegation, which it struck, the allegations in the committee’s application were legally and factually sufficient. The committee was allowed to move on to the second phase of signature-gathering on its recall petition; if it was successful, the director would call a special election to allow the voters to decide whether the governor should be recalled. The State appealed, and the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s decision in a summary order with an opinion to follow. By this opinion, the Supreme Court explained why the committee’s recall application satisfied the legal requirements for presentation to the voters. View "Alaska Division of Elections v. Recall Dunleavy" on Justia Law

by
Alyse Galvin was an Alaska Democratic Party nominee for office, but registered as a nonpartisan voter. She sued to stop the state Division of Elections from sending out already-printed ballots for the 2020 general election, arguing that the Division’s ballot design, by omitting her nonpartisan voter registration, violated both a statutory directive to designate a candidate’s party affiliation on the ballot and Galvin’s right to free political association under the Alaska Constitution. After the superior court issued a temporary restraining order, the Division petitioned for review. But the following day, the superior court denied Galvin’s request for a preliminary injunction; the Alaska Supreme Court granted her emergency cross-petition for review and affirmed the superior court’s decision in a summary order with this explanation to follow. The Court concluded the Division’s evidence supported the superior court’s factual finding that granting Galvin’s requested injunction would have jeopardized the prospects of a successful and timely election. The superior court did not abuse its discretion by denying Galvin’s requested preliminary injunction because granting the injunction could have imperiled the public interest in an orderly and timely election. View "Alaska Division of Elections v. Galvin" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit challenging the constitutionality of Arkansas' limits on which candidates can appear on its general-election ballot, Ark. Code 7-7-101. After the district court entered judgment upholding the challenged provisions, plaintiff appealed. While the appeal was pending, the 2020 general election came and went.The Eighth Circuit dismissed plaintiff's appeal as moot, concluding that the "capable-of-repetition-yet-evading-judicial-review" exception to mootness did not apply. The court explained that plaintiff's interest in this case was predicated on his status as an Independent candidate; without such a candidacy, the challenged provisions do not apply to him. However, plaintiff's 2020 Independent candidacy has ended and he has not indicated whether he intends to run as an Independent again. Therefore, this case is no longer "live." Furthermore, plaintiff has failed to show that he is reasonably likely to be subject to the challenged statutory provisions again. View "Whitfield v. Thurston" on Justia Law

by
Defendants, the New Hampshire Secretary of State (Secretary) and the Attorney General (collectively, the State), appealed a superior court order ruling that Laws 2017, chapter 205, also known as Senate Bill 3 (SB 3), was unconstitutional because it unreasonably burdened the right to vote in violation of Part I, Article 11 of the New Hampshire Constitution and violated the equal protection guarantees of the New Hampshire Constitution. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling that SB 3 violated Part I, Article 11 of the State Constitution. Because the Court determined that SB 3 had to be stricken in its entirety, it did not address the State’s assertion that the trial court erred in determining that SB 3 also violated the equal protection guarantees of the State Constitution. View "New Hampshire Democratic Party v. New Hampshire Secretary of State" on Justia Law