Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

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Two Tonasket voters petitioned to recall City Council member Jill Ritter from office. The petition made six allegations relating to improper influence over a police investigation of a relative’s son, improperly reviewing police personnel records, certain public statements made about Tonasket police, and conspiracy to disband the police force. The superior court determined all allegations were insufficient to warrant a recall election; finding no reversible error, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed that decision. View "In re Recall of Ritter" on Justia Law

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Two Tonasket voters petitioned to recall City Council member Christia “Teagan” Levine from office. The petition alleged Levin committed five violations relating to certain city personnel actions, conspiracy to remove the City Attorney and cause the Mayor to resign as part of an illegal quorum, withholding public records, and conspiring to disband the city police force. After a hearing, the trial court dismissed all charges, finding them factually and legally insufficient to sustain further action. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed. View "In re Recall of Levine" on Justia Law

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A recall petition was filed against the Mayor and three Cathlamet council members; charges stemmed from Cathlamet’s purchase of a parcel of property at 20 Butler street. The petition alleged a violation of the Washington Constitution as a gift of public funds to the seller of the Butler Street property, Bernadette Goodroe. One additional charge against one town counselor alleged violation of RCW 42.23.070(2), prohibiting municipal officials from giving or receiving gifts related to their official capacities. The Washington Supreme Court determined the charges in the recall petition was legally insufficient, because acquisition of real property is a fundamental government purpose and discretionary act that was not manifestly unreasonable under the circumstances of this case. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the superior court. View "In re Recall of Burnham" on Justia Law

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Montana Code section 45-8-216(1)(e)—which restricts automated telephone calls promoting a political campaign or any use related to a political campaign—violates the First Amendment. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Attorney General of Montana, holding that regulating robocalls based on the content of their messaging presents a more severe threat to First Amendment freedoms than regulating their time, place, and manner. Furthermore, prohibiting political robocalls strikes at the heart of the First Amendment, as well as disproportionately disadvantages political candidates with fewer resources. After determining that plaintiff had standing to challenge Montana's Robocall Statute, the panel held that Montana's content-based restrictions on robocalls cannot survive strict scrutiny. Although protecting personal privacy was a compelling state interest, the panel held that the statute was not narrowly tailored to further this interest, the statute was both underinclusive and overinclusive, and thus the statute's restriction on political messages did not survive strict scrutiny. View "Victory Processing, LLC v. Fox" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied a writ of mandamus sought by six Williams County electors (Relators) to compel the Williams County Board of Elections and its members to place a petition for a proposed county charter on the November 5, 2019 ballot, holding that Relators had an adequate remedy at law. The Board found that Relators' proposal did not comply with Ohio Const. art. X, 3, which governs county-charter proposals, and determined that the proposal was invalid. In this original action, Relators argued that the Board impermissibly examined the substance of the proposed charter when it should have determined only the sufficiency and validity of the petition and signatures. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that Relators failed to show that initial review by a court of common pleas, following by an appeal of right to a court of appeals, afforded them an inadequate remedy at law. View "State ex rel. Fleming v. Fox" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the legislative boundaries for Mississippi State Senate District 22, arguing that the district, as drawn in 2012, diluted African-American voting strength. After determining that it had jurisdiction over the declaratory judgment action and that a single district judge had the authority to decide the case, the Fifth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in rejecting the State's laches defense. On the merits, the court affirmed the district court's conclusion that the evidence established a section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 violation under the standards set forth in Thornburg v. Gingles. In this case, the district court did not err in determining that plaintiffs' section 2 challenge to a majority-minority, single-member district was legally cognizable; the district court did not clearly err in determining that plaintiffs met their burden of proving the three Gingles preconditions; the district court did not clearly err in its ultimate finding of vote dilution; and the district court's conclusion that plaintiffs were entitled to section 2 relief was fully supported by the record and not clearly erroneous. Finally, the court dismissed the State's appeal of the district court's judgment granting injunctive relief as moot, because no matter the resolution of the State's appeal, the court-ordered plan will never become operative. View "Thomas v. Bryant" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court's grant of preliminary injunctive relief enjoining the State Board of Elections from certifying the 2018 general election ballot with April Ademiluyi's name listed as a candidate for circuit court judge, holding that the Libertarian Party's nomination of Ademiluyi did not comport with the requirements of Md. Code Ann. Elec. Law (EL) 5-701 and that the circuit court's grant of preliminary injunction was sufficiently supported by the appropriate factors. Ademiluyi was a registered Democrat. Upon learning of Ademiluyi's party affiliation, Appellees challenged her qualifications for nomination as a circuit court judge. The circuit court ordered that Ademiluyi's be removed from the ballot. The Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court's grant of preliminary injunctive relief, holding that Ademiluyi's candidacy was impermissible under the relevant provisions that regulate judicial elections in Maryland because (1) Ademiluyi's candidacy was at odds with the Libertarian Party's Constitution, which requires that its candidates for office be registered Libertarians; and (2) a judicial candidate's route to access the ballot is dependent upon her party affiliation, and candidates registered with a principal party may only achieve this end through participation in primary elections. View "Ademiluyi v. Egbuono" on Justia Law

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In answer to three questions certified to it by the federal district court the Supreme Court answered, among other things, that a Utah state district court does not have appellate jurisdiction to review the Utah County Board of Commissioners' decision upholding a fine levied under Utah Code 20A-11-1205. Steven Downs, the Public Information Officer for the City of Orem, was fined for violating the Political Activities of Public Entities Act, specifically, section 20A-11-1205(1)(b), which stated that "a person may not send an email using the email of a public entity...to advocate for or against a ballot proposition." The Board of Commissioners voted to uphold the fine. Downs filed a petition in the federal district court challenging the ruling on several grounds. The federal court reserved ruling on a number of motions until receiving guidance on the three questions certified to the Supreme Court. The Court answered (1) section 20A-11-1205 does not convey appellate jurisdiction on state district courts; (2) the term "ballot proposition" as used in section 20A-11-1205(1) includes the entire referendum process; and (3) a "ballot proposition" as used in section 21A-11-1205(1) includes the entirety of the referendum process even if the challenged local government action is later found to be administrative in nature and therefore not subject to a referendum. View "Downs v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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LULAC filed suit against the Edwards Aquifer Authority, alleging that the Authority's electoral scheme violated the "one person, one vote" principle of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Fifth Circuit granted summary judgment for the Authority, holding that the Authority's powers are expressly tailored to protecting the quantity and quality of groundwater in the Edwards Aquifer and do not extend to any surface water or other aquifers located within its jurisdiction; the Authority's limited functions disproportionately impact the western agricultural and eastern spring-flow counties, whose residents are most empowered by its elections; and the Authority's electoral scheme was rationally related to the legitimate goal of protecting the aquifer because it equitably balances the rival interests of the agricultural, spring-flow, and urban counties to ensure that no one region can dominate the aquifer's management. Furthermore, the apportionment scheme was likely necessary to ensure the creation of the Authority. View "League of United Latin American Citizens v. City of San Marcos" on Justia Law

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Indiana Senate Enrolled Act 442, Indiana Code 3-7- 38.2-5(d)–(e), allowed Indiana immediately to remove a voter based on information received from a third-party database rather than in response to direct contact with the voter. The database aggregates voter data from multiple states to identify potential duplicate voter registrations. Act 442 allows Indiana automatically to remove a voter from the rolls if the voter was identified as a database “match” with a certain level of confidence without provision for contacting the voter or confirming her wish permanently to change domicile and cancel her Indiana registration. Organizations challenged Act 442, asserting that it violates the National Voter Registration Act, 52 U.S.C. §§ 20501–11. . Finding that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits and that they would suffer irreparable injury if the law were to take effect immediately, the district court issued preliminary injunctions “prohibiting the Defendants from taking any actions to implement [Act 442]” until the cases are concluded. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, concluding that the plaintiff organizations adequately demonstrated their standing to bring these actions. Indiana equates double registration with double voting. But the two are quite different. Registering to vote in another state is not the same as a request for removal from Indiana’s voting rolls. View "Common Cause Indiana v. Lawson" on Justia Law