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Petitioners, CREW and its executive director, filed suit alleging that the Commission acted "contrary to law" in 2015 when it dismissed their administrative complaint against an unincorporated association. On appeal, CREW raised the judicial review provision of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The DC Circuit affirmed, holding that the Commission's dismissal of the complaint constituted the "agency action" supporting the district court's jurisdiction. In this case, the district court held that the Commission's explanation of its failure to prosecute was a rational exercise of prosecutorial discretion. The court dismissed CREW's arguments to the contrary. The court addressed remaining issues and the dissent's position before affirming the judgment. View "Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. FEC" on Justia Law

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Jones, a Calumet City alderman, wants to be mayor. His supporter, Grant, tried to prevent the incumbent, Qualkinbush, from running for reelection in 2017 by circulating a referendum to set a three-term limit on the mayor. Grant gathered enough signatures but the city proposed three referenda for that election, which were certified before Grant’s. Illinois law limits to three the number of referenda on any ballot. One of the city’s proposals passed: it prevents the election as mayor of anyone who has served four or more consecutive terms as either mayor or alderman, barring Jones. Jones was removed from the ballot. Qualkinbush was reelected. Jones lost a state suit. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of Jones’s challenges. The Rule of Three allows a city observing a signature-gathering campaign in progress to get its own proposals on the ballot first but a ballot is not a public forum. Nothing in the Constitution guarantees direct democracy. The Rule does not distinguish by content and is rationally related to a legitimate state objective in simplifying the ballot to promote a well-considered outcome. Rejecting Jones’s claim that this referendum was aimed at him and treated him as a prohibited class of one, the court noted that three aldermen were affected and the referendum prevents Qualkinbush from running for reelection in 2021. “Politics is a rough-and-tumble game,” and the right response is political. View "Jones v. Qualkinbush" on Justia Law

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Minnesota law prohibits wearing a “political badge, political button, or other political insignia” inside a polling place on Election Day, Minn. Stat. 211B.11(1), including clothing and accessories with political insignia. Election judges are authorized to decide whether a particular item is banned. Days before the 2010 election, plaintiffs challenged the ban. In response, the state distributed guidance with specific examples of prohibited apparel: items displaying the name of a political party or the name of a candidate, items supporting or opposing a ballot question, “[i]ssue oriented material designed to influence or impact voting,” and “[m]aterial promoting a group with recognizable political views.” Cilek allegedly was turned away from the polls for wearing a “Please I.D. Me” button, a “Don’t Tread on Me” T-shirt, and a Tea Party Patriots logo. The Supreme Court reversed the Eighth Circuit’s rejection of the constitutional challenges. Minnesota’s political apparel ban violates the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause. Because the ban applies only in a “nonpublic forum,” its content-based restrictions would be constitutional if “reasonable and not an effort to suppress expression merely because public officials oppose the speaker’s view,” The statute makes no distinction based on the speaker’s political persuasion and serves a permissible objective: to set aside polling places as “an island of calm.” The state may reasonably decide that the interior of the polling place should reflect the distinction between voting and campaigning. However, the “unmoored use of the term “political” in the Minnesota law, combined with haphazard interpretations" render the law unconstitutional for lack of narrow tailoring to serve that objective. Its indeterminate prohibitions present “[t]he opportunity for abuse, especially where [it] has received a virtually open-ended interpretation.” An election judge’s own politics may shape his views on what is “political.” View "Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky" on Justia Law

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Under Missouri campaign finance law, chapter 130, a “campaign committee” is formed to receive contributions or make expenditures solely to support or oppose particular ballot measures, "such committee shall be formed no later than thirty days prior to the election for which the committee receives contributions or makes expenditures." Thirteen days before the November 2014 general election, a group formed MFA as a campaign committee, to accept contributions and make expenditures in support of Proposition 10. MFA sued to enjoin enforcement of the formation deadline, citing the First Amendment. The district court granted MFA a temporary restraining order. MFA received contributions and made expenditures before the election. After the election, MFA terminated as a campaign committee. The Eighth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of MFA. While a formation deadline by itself might not expressly limit speech, the deadline here is more than a disclosure requirement because it prohibits (or significantly burdens) formation of a campaign committee, a requisite for legally engaging in speech, even if the individual or group is willing to comply with organizational and disclosure requirements. Even if the state’s interest in preventing circumvention of chapter 130’s disclosure regime is compelling, the formation deadline is unconstitutional because it is not narrowly tailored, given its burden on speech and its modest effect on preventing circumvention of the disclosure regime. View "Missourians for Fiscal Accountability v. Klahr" on Justia Law

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C.T. Marhula appealed a judgment dismissing an action contesting a special election in the City of Grand Forks. Marhula argued Grand Forks lacked authority under its home rule charter and city ordinances to designate one voting location for the special election. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded Marhula's post-election challenge to the special election was moot, and affirmed the judgment dismissing the action. View "Poochigian v. City of Grand Forks" on Justia Law

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The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), 52 U.S.C. 20507(d), provides that a state may not remove a name from voter rolls on change-of-residence grounds unless the registrant either confirms in writing that he has moved or fails to return a pre-addressed, postage prepaid “return card” containing statutorily prescribed content and then fails to vote in any election during the period covering the next two general federal elections. The “Failure-to-Vote Clause,” section 20507(b)(2), provides that a state removal program “shall not result in the removal of the name . . . by reason of the person’s failure to vote,” and, as added by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), specifies that “nothing in [this prohibition] may be construed to prohibit a State from using the [pre-addressed return card] procedures.” Section 21083(a)(4)(A) states that “no registrant may be removed solely by reason of a failure to vote.” Ohio uses the failure to vote for two years to identify voters who may have moved, then sends these non-voters a pre-addressed, postage prepaid return card. Voters who do not return the card and fail to vote in any election for four more years are removed from the rolls. The Supreme Court held that the Ohio process does not violate the NVRA. The process follows subsection (d): It does not remove a registrant on change-of-residence grounds unless the registrant is sent and fails to mail back a return card and then fails to vote for an additional four years. The Failure-to-Vote Clause simply forbids the use of nonvoting as the sole criterion for removing a registrant; Ohio does not use it that way. An argument that so many registered voters discard return cards upon receipt that the failure to send cards back is worthless as evidence that an addressee has moved “is based on a dubious empirical conclusion that conflicts with the congressional judgment.” View "Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute" on Justia Law

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William Veitch was a Republican candidate for district attorney for the 10th Judicial Circuit of Alabama. His request for a declaration was denied, and he petitioned for a writ of mandamus when the trial court refused to direct that the names of candidates running for the office of district attorney for the 10th Judicial Circuit be included not only on the ballot to be used in the primary election in the Birmingham Division of Jefferson County, but also on the ballot to be used in the primary election in the portion of Jefferson County known as the Bessemer Cutoff. The trial court dismissed Veitch's action based on its conclusion that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction and, alternatively, based on the doctrine of laches. Veitch appealed. The Alabama Supreme Court found a jurisdiction-stripping statute did not deprive the trial court of jurisdiction and Veitch was not precluded by the doctrine of laches from bringing his action. At this point, the Court expressed no opinion on the merits of Veitch's arguments regarding the alleged repeal of the 1953 Act, its alleged unconstitutionality, or its alleged unconstitutional application. The trial court's judgment was therefore reversed and this case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Veitch v. Vowell" on Justia Law

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted discretionary review to determine whether appellant, Swatara Township Board of Commissioners, was required to seek and obtain judicial approval before changing from an at-large to a by-ward system of governance. The Board claimed it was “not entirely elected at large,” and consequently, it possessed the authority to “reapportion” Swatara Township without judicial approval. The Supreme Court found the Board’s argument failed; judicial approval was required pursuant to Section 401 of the First Class Township Code, 53 P.S. section 55401. The Court thus affirmed the decision of the Commonwealth Court. View "Varner v. Swatara Township" on Justia Law

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The circuit court ruled Appellant Kim Murphy was not qualified to be a candidate for election to a Richland County seat on the District 5 Richland-Lexington School Board of Trustees (School Board). The circuit court based this ruling on its conclusion that Murphy resided in Lexington County. Upon review, the South Carolina Supreme Court first found the circuit court had subject matter jurisdiction over Respondents' declaratory judgment action challenging Murphy's qualifications. Second, the Court held there was probative evidence in the record supporting the circuit court's conclusion that Murphy resided in Lexington County. Therefore, the Court affirmed the circuit court's ruling that Murphy is not qualified to be a candidate for election to a Richland County seat on the School Board. View "Gantt v. Selph" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court granting a petition for writ of mandamus filed by Jefferson County Judge Hank Wilkins ex rel. Jefferson County, Arkansas, holding that the circuit court did not have the authority to order Appellants - the Jefferson County Election Commission (CBEC) and the Jefferson County Election Commissioner - to provide the election coordinator (EC) for Jefferson County with information and access to items necessary to facilitate an election process. The circuit court concluded that the election commissioners had prevented the Jefferson County EC, William Fox, from pursuing the duties of EC and that mandamus was the appropriate remedy. The court ordered the CBEC to provide Fox with “all necessary keys, logins, passwords, data, information, and any other items necessary to facilitate the election process.” The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the CBEC did not abuse its discretion by refusing to use the services of the EC, did not act without or in excess of jurisdiction, and did not otherwise err in its actions. View "Jefferson County Election Commission v. Honorable Hank Wilkins ex rel. Jefferson County, Arkansas" on Justia Law