Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

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The Democratic National Committee claimed that Wisconsin statutes would abridge some voters’ rights during the pandemic. A district judge extended the deadline for online and mail-in registration from October 14 to October 21; extended the deadline for delivery of absentee ballots by mail from October 22 by allowing for online delivery and access by October 29; and extended the deadline for the receipt of mailed ballots from November 3 (Election Day) to November 9, if the ballots are postmarked on or before November 3. The Seventh Circuit denied a stay, concluding that none of the appellants has a legal interest for purposes of appeal.The district court did not order the Republican Party intervenors to do something or forbid them from doing anything. The deadlines do not affect any legal interest of either organization or of their members.Appeal by the state, or someone with rights under the contested statute, is essential to review of a decision concerning the validity of a statute. The interest at stake here is not the power to legislate but the validity of rules established by legislation. All of the legislators’ votes were counted; all of the statutes they passed appear in the state’s code. The constitutional validity of a law does not concern any legislative interest. State executive officials are responsible for the vindication of the state’s interest in the validity of enacted legislation.While the Seventh Circuit previously held that Wis. Stat. 803.09(2m) permits the legislature to act as a representative of the state, the Wisconsin Supreme Court subsequently held that the interpretation violates the state’s constitution, which commits to the executive branch the protection of the state’s interest in litigation. View "Wisconsin State Legislature v. Bostelmann" on Justia Law

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Kenton Onstad, individually in his capacity as a resident and elector of North Dakota District 4 and as chair of the District 4 Democratic-NPL Party, petitioned for a writ of mandamus to compel Secretary of State Alvin Jaeger to remove Terry Jones from the general election ballot as a candidate for the House of Representatives from District 4. Onstad argued Jones was constitutionally ineligible to hold the office of representative from District 4 because he will not have been a North Dakota resident for one year immediately prior to the November general election. Considering all of the facts and circumstances, the North Dakota Supreme Court found Jones would have been a North Dakota resident for more than one year at the time of the November 3, 2020 general election. Therefore, Jones satisfied the constitutional residency requirement for election to the office of state legislator and it was not error to place his name on the ballot. The Court denied Onstad’s petition for a writ of mandamus. View "Onstad v. Jaeger, et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court upheld the order of the district court prohibiting the office of the Secretary of State from qualifying the Montana Green Party as a minor party eligible for the 2020 election ballot, holding that the district court did not err.Mont. Code Ann. 13-10-601(2) requires the political party seeking to nominate its candidates through a primary election to present the petition seeking to hold a primary election to select the party's noises for office and to obtain ballot access for those nominees for the November 2020 general election to election administrators. The Montana Green Party was not involved and did not endorse the petition process at the time the signatures were gathered and presented to election administrators. The district court concluded that the petition failed to meet the requirements of section 13-10-601(2) and enjoined the Secretary from giving any effect to the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the petition failed to satisfy the statutory requirements of section 13-10-601(2). View "Montana Democratic Party v. Stapleton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court vacating the Secretary of State's determination that an inadequate number of valid signatures had been submitted to place on the ballot a people's veto of An Act to Implement Ranked-choice Voting for Presidential Primary and General Elections in Maine, holding that the superior court erred in concluding that Petitioner had satisfied his burden of overcoming the presumption of constitutionality.Upon a petition for review of the Secretary of State's decision, the superior court determined that it was unconstitutional for the State to require that every circulator who collected signatures be registered to vote in the circulator's municipality of residence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Petitioner failed to demonstrate that the constitutional and statutory requirement that a circulator be a registered voter in the circulator's municipality of residence when collecting signatures violates the First Amendment. The Court remanded the cause with instructions to affirm the Secretary of State's determinations that the signatures contested on appeal were invalid and that an inadequate number of valid signatures had been submitted to place the people's veto on the ballot. View "Jones v. Secretary of State" on Justia Law

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Six plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment regarding the meaning of the absentee-ballot provision under Mississippi law and its most recent addition in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their claims dealt exclusively with Mississippi Code Section 23-15-713(d). In partially granting plaintiffs' request, the chancery court ruled: "as it pertains to the issue of . . . whether [Section] 23-15-713(d) permits any voter with pre-existing conditions that cause COVID-19 to present a greater risk of severe illness or death to vote by absentee ballot during the COVID-19 pandemic – is well taken and the relief sought is hereby GRANTED to the extent that such pre-existing 'physical . . . condition impairs, interferes with, or limits a person’s ability to engage in certain tasks or actions or participate in typical daily activities and interactions' or in an 'impaired function or ability' that interferes thereof." The chancery court denied the Plaintiffs’ second request, finding that Section 24-15- 713(d) did not permit any voter to vote absentee if he or she wanted to avoid voting in-person at a polling place due to guidance from the MDH, the CDC, or public-health authorities to avoid unnecessary public gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic. The chancery court declared, however, that “a voter will be allowed to vote absentee if he or she or any dependent has consulted with a physician who recommends, because of that individual’s physical disability or that of their dependent, not attending any public gathering because of the possibility of contracting COVID-19[.]” The chancery court denied the Plaintiffs’ third request for injunctive relief. Secretary of State Michael Watson, Jr. appealed the chancery court’s order, arguing the plain terms of Section 24-15-713(d), a voter must have a “physical disability,” and “because of” that disability, voting in-person “could reasonably cause danger” to the voter or others. The Secretary of State maintained a preexisting condition that was not itself a “physical disability” cannot satisfy the statute, whether or not the voter believed that COVID-19 might make voting in person dangerous. The Secretary of State contended the chancery court erred to the extent its order suggested that Section 23-15-713(d) applied to voters otherwise. The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the chancery court erred to the extent its order declared Section 25-15-713(d) permitted any voter with preexisting conditions that cause COVID-19 to present a greater risk of severe illness or death to vote by absentee ballot during the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, the chancery court erred to the extent that its order allowed a “recommended” quarantine to qualify as a “physician-imposed quarantine.” The court's order was affirmed in all other respects. View "Watson v. Oppenheim" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that three candidates for the Green Party of Texas were improperly denied access to the ballot for failure to pay a filing fee and that the court of appeals erred in declaring the candidates ineligible.Democratic candidates for office sought mandamus relief to remove three Green Party candidates from the November general election ballot, asserting that the candidates were ineligible because they failed to pay the filing fee required by Tex. Elec. Code 141.041. The court of appeals agreed and granted mandamus relief. The Supreme Court directed the court of appeals to vacate its conditional grant of mandamus relief, holding that because the deadline to remove a candidate from the ballot due to ineligibility has passed, removal from the ballot was no longer an available remedy. View "In re Green Party of Texas" on Justia Law

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The Pennsylvania Democratic Party and several Democratic elected officials and congressional candidates, some in their official capacity and/or as private citizens (collectively, “Petitioner”), filed suit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief relating primarily to five issues of statutory interpretation involving Act 77 of 2019 and the Election Code, 25 P.S. sections 2600-3591. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court exercised Extraordinary Jurisdiction to address these issues and to clarify the law of the Commonwealth in time for the 2020 General Election. Petitioner requested: (1) declaratory relief to confirm Act 77 permitted local election boards “to provide secure, easily accessible locations ... where appropriate, mobile or temporary collection sites, and/or drop-boxes for the collection of mail-in ballots; (2) an injunction to “lift the deadline in the Election Code across the state to allow any ballot postmarked by 8:00 p.m. on Election Night to be counted if it is received by the Boards” by 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 10, the deadline for ballots to be received under the Federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act or to allow boards discretion to extend deadlines to 21 days after the voter's ballot is mailed by the county; (3) an injunction requiring boards to contact electors whose mailed-in ballots are incomplete or incorrectly completed; (4) a declaration there was no no statutory authority to set aside an absentee or mail-in ballot solely for failure to place it into the "secrecy envelope"; and (5) a declaration that the “Election Code’s poll watcher residency requirement does not violate the United States Constitution’s First and Fourteenth Amendments, its Equal Protection Clause, or the Equal Protection and Free and Equal Elections Clauses of the Pennsylvania Constitution.” The Supreme Court granted relief on counts 1, 2 and 5 of the petition; the Court denied relief sought on counts 3 and 4. View "PA Dem Party. v. Boockvar, et al : Boockvar" on Justia Law

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Between March and August 2020, the Green Party of Pennsylvania (“Green Party”) circulated signature pages for a nomination paper pertaining to a slate of five candidates for federal and state office: Elizabeth Faye Scroggin for President of the United States; Neal Taylor Gale for Vice President of the United States; Timothy Runkle for Treasurer of Pennsylvania; Olivia Faison for Auditor General of Pennsylvania; and Richard Weiss for Attorney General of Pennsylvania. On August 3, the deadline for filing nomination papers, Runkle presented the nomination paper at issue in this appeal. Runkle appended to the nomination paper notarized candidate affidavits for himself, Faison, and Weiss, but he did not submit affidavits for Scroggin or Gale. Instead, Runkle’s submission included a notarized candidate affidavit for Howie Hawkins and a non-notarized affidavit for Angela Walker (“Candidates”), who were nominated as the Green Party’s candidates for President and Vice President, respectively, at the national Green Party Convention in July 2020. On August 10, the Green Party filed two Substitute Nomination Certificates, seeking to replace Scroggin and Gale with Hawkins and Walker. The certificates, which were signed and notarized on August 6 (for Hawkins) and 7 (for Walker), indicated that the cause of each vacancy was “[r]esignation,” and that the substitutions of Hawkins and Walker were made by the Green Party on August 2, the day before Runkle presented the nomination paper in the filing office designated by the Department. Objectors filed a petition to set aside the Green Party candidates’ nomination paper as to the entire slate as well as to the purported substitutions and candidacies of Hawkins and Walker. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court determined the Commonwealth Court erred in dismissing Objectors’ petition to set aside Scroggin’s nomination, and Hawkins’ substitution, as the Green Party’s candidate for President of the United States. The Court found Scroggin failed to comply with the Election Code’s strict mandate that she append an original affidavit to her nomination paper, and the party’s use of Hawkins’ affidavit while presenting a nomination paper in which he was not “named therein” did not suffice to cure that error. "That defect was fatal to Scroggin’s nomination and, therefore, to Hawkins’ substitution." Accordingly, the Secretary of the Commonwealth was directed to remove Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker from the general election ballot as the Green Party’s nominees for President and Vice President. View "In Re: Nom Papers of Scroggin; Appeal of Stefano" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted in part and dismissed in part an original action brought by Petitioners challenging the sufficiency of a state-wide petition to refer Act 579 of 2019 to the people of Arkansas on the November 3, 2020 general election ballot, holding that the petition was insufficient because it did not comply with Ark. Code Ann. 7-9-601(b)(3).Act 579 expanded the scope of the practice of optometry in Arkansas to permit licensed optometrists to perform certain procedures. Safe Surgery Arkansas (SSA), a ballot-question committee, filed with the Secretary its petition containing more than 84,000 signatures. The Secretary certified that the petition met constitutional signature requirements. Thereafter, Petitioners filed the instant original action alleging four counts regarding the insufficiency of the petition. The special master found that SSA lacked sufficient valid signatures to qualify the petition for the ballot. The Supreme Court granted in part and dismissed as moot in part the petition, holding (1) SSA's petition was insufficient because it failed to certify that its paid canvassers had passed criminal background checks; and (2) the remaining challenges to the petition were moot. View "Arkansans for Healthy Eyes v. Thurston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed as moot Count I of Petitioners' complaint alleging that a proposed ballot petition's ballot title and popular name were invalid, holding that, in light of the holding of a companion case handed down today concluding that the proposed ballot petition was insufficient, Count I was moot.The Secretary of State certified a statewide referendum petition on Act 579 of 2019 for placement on the November 3, 2020 general-election ballot. Petitioners filed this original action challenging the proposed ballot petition and alleging four counts related to the sufficient of the petition. The Supreme Court bifurcated the proceedings between Count I and Counts II-IV. In a companion case, the Supreme Court granted the petition in part, concluding that the proposed ballot petition was insufficient. Because of this holding, any rulings on the issues in Count I were moot. View "Arkansans For Healthy Eyes v. Thurston" on Justia Law