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In 2012, minor political parties challenged Pennsylvania’s election laws under the First and Fourteenth Amendment, 42 U.S.C. 1983. Minor parties gather a considerable number of signatures to place candidates on the ballot; the validity of those signatures can be challenged. A successful challenge may result in an award of costs (which may be considerable). The threat of these high costs has deterred some candidates. The court held that the statutes were, in combination, unconstitutional as applied to the parties, and ultimately adopted the Commonwealth’s proposal, based on a pending Pennsylvania General Assembly bill, that minor party candidates be placed on the ballot if they gather two and one-half times as many signatures as major party candidates must gather for the office of Governor, at least 5,000 signatures must be gathered with at least 250 from at least 10 of the 67 counties. For other statewide offices, the bill required 1,250-2,500 signatures with at least 250 from at least five counties. The court did not find any facts, nor explain its decision. The Third Circuit vacated, finding the record inadequate to support the signature gathering requirement. The appropriate inquiry is concerned with the extent to which a challenged regulation actually burdens constitutional rights and is “fact-intensive.” The court can impose the county-based signature-gathering requirements if it concludes that the requirements would have no appreciable impact on voting rights. View "Constitution Party of Pennsylvania v. Cortes" on Justia Law

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Appellant Troy Wesley lost the Democratic primary election for Mississippi’s Washington County District 3 Supervisor on August 4, 2015. He subsequently petitioned the circuit court to request a new election, alleging that numerous irregularities had invalidated the former election. After a hearing on the matter, the Washington County Circuit Court granted summary judgment to defendants Carl McGee and the Washington County Democratic Executive Committee. Wesley appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court. During its review, the Court found Wesley cited no discrepancy in the original vote totals and instead focused his arguments on procedural problems, including an alleged lack of ballot-box security. “While the failure to maintain ballot-box security is a serious issue worthy of reprimand,” the Supreme Court found Wesley’s arguments were insufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact and that summary judgment was properly entered in favor of the defendants. View "Wesley v. Washington Cty. Democratic Exec. Committee" on Justia Law

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The Libertarian Party filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief against the Arkansas Secretary of State, claiming that the ballot access statutory scheme violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. During the Secretary's appeal of the district court's judgment, the Arkansas General Assembly amended its statute to allow new political parties to hold their nominating convention and submit their certificates of nomination at 12:00 p.m. on the day of the major parties' primary election. The Fifth Circuit held that the Libertarian Party's claim for declaratory relief has been rendered moot. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded with directions to dismiss the complaint. The court affirmed the award of costs and attorney's fees. View "Libertarian Party of Arkansas v. Martin" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the Federal Election Campaign Act's (FECA), 52 U.S.C. 30116(a)(1)(A), base limits on individual contributions to candidates. The DC Circuit rejected plaintiffs' challenge to Congress's decision to fashion FECA's base contribution limits for individuals as per-election ceilings. The court explained that the Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976), rejected a constitutional challenge to those ceilings, and that holding remains undisturbed. The Supreme Court reasoned that, as long as a contribution limit is not so low as to prevent candidates from mounting effective campaigns, the judiciary would generally defer to Congress's determination of the limit’s precise amount. The court concluded that the same was true of Congress's intertwined choice of the timeframe in which that amount may be contributed. View "Holmes v. FEC" on Justia Law

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Following a narrow loss to Gloria Dickerson in the Sunflower County Board of Supervisor’s Democratic Primary election, Barry Bryant filed a Petition to Contest Qualifications of Gloria Dickerson as Nominee for Supervisor. Specifically, Bryant claimed that Dickerson was not a resident of Sunflower County. In the Sunflower County Circuit Court, Senior Status Judge Breland Hilburn heard the contest and found in favor of Dickerson. Bryant appealed the circuit court’s decision. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Bryant v. Dickerson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs claimed Ohio’s paper-ballot absentee voter system discriminated against the blind, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101. In Ohio, blind voters must seek the aid of a sighted person to vote absentee, depriving them of the ability to vote anonymously. Plaintiffs proposed that the state provide an online absentee ballot in lieu of a paper one, and adopt online ballot marking tools used in other states for blind voters. The state argued that adoption of plaintiffs’ proposal would violate state law, given Ohio’s certification requirements for voting equipment, and would force through untested and uncertified voting tools—which are neither appropriate nor necessary auxiliary aids under the ADA—and would fundamentally alter Ohio election law. The district court granted the state judgment on the pleadings. The Sixth Circuit reversed, stating that the district court based its ruling on defendant’s mere allegation of the “fundamental alteration” affirmative defense under the ADA, without any evidentiary support. The state had the burden of production and persuasion to prove that the proposed accommodation—the ballot marking tools and electronic ballots—would fundamentally alter Ohio’s election system by not “correctly, accurately, and continuously register[ing] and record[ing] every vote cast.” A state procedural requirement may not excuse a substantive ADA violation. View "Hindel v. Husted" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Washington Supreme Court was whether the superior court erred in ruling that 29A.80.061 was invalid under the First Amendment. Also at issue was whether the bill containing the statute violated the single subject or subject in title requirements of article II, section 19 of the Washington Constitution. RCW 29A.80.061 requires political parties to elect, rather than appoint, legislative district chairs for each legislative district. Appellant Andrew Pilloud, acting pro se, sought to enforce the statute against the King County Republican Central Committee (Committee), which, by bylaw, had long chosen to appoint its legislative district chairs. The superior court concluded that the statute violated a political party's right to free association under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Pilloud appealed this decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding RCW 29A.80.061 violated the Committee's freedom of association. View "Pilloud v. King County Republican Cent. Comm." on Justia Law

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Petitioner sought review of the Oregon Attorney General’s certified ballot title for Initiative Petition 19 (2018) (IP 19), arguing that the ballot title caption did not satisfy the requirements of ORS 250.035(2)(a). If adopted by voters, IP 19 would prohibit a person from serving as a member of the Legislative Assembly for more than eight years in any period of 12 years. Subject to certain exceptions, IP 19 specifically provided that the measure would apply “retroactively to limit service by any person who is a Representative or Senator upon the effective date of this Act, so that current or prior membership is included in the calculation of years of service.” Petitioner contends that that caption does not comply with ORS 250.035(2)(a); although petitioner acknowledged that the caption informed voters of one major effect of IP 19 (its prohibition on years of service) petitioner contended that it failed to inform voters of another major effect, that the measure applies retroactively, with exceptions. The Oregon Supreme Court agreed that the caption could have been more explicit: the actual impact of the measure on the legislature’s composition was a major effect that must be described in the ballot title’s caption. The Court referred the ballot back to the Attorney General for modification. View "Swanson v. Rosenblum" on Justia Law

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Yakima County Clerk Janelle Riddle appealed a trial court's ruling that five out of the six recall charges filed against her were factually and legally sufficient. Riddle was elected on in late 2014, defeating incumbent Kim Eaton. Riddle attributed many of the challenges she faced to Yakima County's early adoption of new case management software called “Odyssey.” Yakima County had received approval to be "an early adopter site" for Odyssey about a year before Riddle's election. Odyssey was implemented in November 2015. And although most of the early adopter sites for Odyssey encountered some difficulties in its implementation, the Yakima County Clerk's Office had the most difficulty making the transition. Another source of difficulty for Riddle has been her ongoing disagreement with other Yakima County officials, particularly the superior court judges, about the scope of Riddle's powers and duties as clerk. This disagreement prompted the Yakima County Superior Court to pass five new local administrative rules regarding the powers and duties of the clerk on an emergency basis. In May 2017, about two and a half years into Riddle's four-year term, the recall petitioners filed a statement of charges against Riddle, largely alleging Riddle failed to transmit court orders as required by statute, refused to perform in-court duties and threatened to shut down the Yakima County Superior Court, and failed to properly collect and account for clerk's office revenue. The Washington Supreme Court granted the recall petitioners' motion for accelerated review and found the five remaining recall charges legally sufficient. View "In re Recall of Riddle" on Justia Law

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Robbin Taylor filed a statement of charges seeking recall of Black Diamond City council member Patricia Pepper. In November 2015, Pepper defeated opponent Ron Taylor (husband of Robbin Taylor) in an election for Black Diamond City Council in King County. Beginning in January 2016, a chasm developed with Mayor Carol Benson and council members Tamie Deady and Janie Edelman on one side, and a majority of the city council - Pepper, Erika Morgan, and Brian Weber - on the other. After Pepper, Morgan, and Weber passed R-1069, they voted to fire city attorney Carol Morris. Upon passing R-1069, Pepper and a majority of the council made decisions to alter contracts regarding the Master Development Review Team (MDRT) contracts for two large development projects planned in Black Diamond that had been approved by Mayor Benson and former council members. Mayor Benson hired emergency interim city attorney Yvonne Ward. Ward submitted two memoranda to the council, concluding that R-1069 violated the Black Diamond Municipal Code (BDMC) and the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA), chapter 42.30 RCW. The council had also received advice from prior city attorney Morris and from the city's risk management pool that the resolution could create liability for the city if council members violated the OPMA. Ultimately, the council's decision to enact R-1069 and revisit the MDRT contracts, among other actions, led to a lawsuit: MDRT contractor CCD Black Diamond Partners LLC (Oakpointe) filed suit against the city and council members Pepper, Morgan, and Weber, alleging violations of the OPMA, which has led to litigation and costs for the city. Pepper was a member of council standing committees; allegations were made that Pepper, Morgan, and Weber held secret council and standing committee meetings conducting city business in violation of the OPMA. After approximately a year and a half of tensions, Taylor filed a statement of charges with the King County Elections Division, requesting Pepper's recall. The superior court ruled that four of those charges were factually and legally sufficient to support a recall petition. Pepper appealed. After review, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's decision with regard to the first three charges, but reversed with regard to the fourth charge. View "In re Recall of Pepper" on Justia Law