Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Twenty-seven New Mexico county clerks sought an emergency writ to compel Respondent, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, to mail absentee ballots directly to all registered voters in lieu of conducting in-person voting in the June 2020 primary election. They requested this extraordinary relief because the primary election was scheduled amidst a global pandemic and national and statewide public health emergency: COVID-19, a novel, potentially fatal, viral disease that was spreading unchecked throughout the population. Petitioners alleged that in-person voting could not be conducted safely under those circumstances, and they urged the New Mexico Supreme Court to hold that the requested relief was necessary to protect the health of election workers, voters, and the general public. Respondent stipulated to the petition. The Supreme Court concluded the Election Code did not permit the Secretary of State to mail absentee ballots directly to voters without a prior request from the voter. However, the Election Code permitted the Secretary to mail absentee ballot applications to voters to encourage and facilitate absentee voting. Furthermore, the Court concluded that, under the circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the "clear and present risk to public health presented by mass gatherings and the executive orders mandating that all branches of government take all lawful steps to mitigate that risk," the Secretary of State had a duty to exercise her power to the fullest extent of the law to promote the safety of election workers and voters while conducting the June 2020 primary election. Therefore, the Supreme Court issued a writ of mandamus ordering the Secretary of State to mail absentee ballot applications to eligible voters to encourage absentee voting and minimize the health risk to the public. This remedy "promotes the public health goals mandated by the Governor while not infringing on the Legislature’s plenary power to establish election procedures." The Court issued this opinion to explain its reasoning. View "New Mexico ex rel. Riddle v. Toulouse Oliver" on Justia Law

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Arizona voters may cast their ballots on election day in person at a traditional precinct or a “voting center” in their county of residence, may cast an “early ballot” by mail, or may vote in person at an early voting location in each county. Arizonans who vote in person on election day in a county that uses the precinct system must vote in the precinct to which they are assigned based on their address; if a voter votes in the wrong precinct, the vote is not counted. For Arizonans who vote early by mail, Arizona HB 2023 makes it a crime for any person other than a postal worker, an elections official, or a voter’s caregiver, family member, or household member to knowingly collect an early ballot.A suit under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 52 U.S.C. 10301, challenged Arizona’s refusal to count ballots cast in the wrong precinct and its ballot-collection restriction. The Ninth Circuit invalidated both restrictions. The Supreme Court reversed, characterizing Arizona's restrictions as “generally applicable time, place, or manner” voting rules and declining to apply the disparate-impact model to displace “the totality of circumstances.” The Court also rejected a “least-restrictive means” analysis as having “the potential to invalidate just about any voting rule.”The core of section 2(b) is “equally open” voting. Any circumstance that bears on whether voting is equally open and affords equal “opportunity” may be considered. Voting necessarily requires some effort and compliance with rules. Having to identify one’s polling place and travel there to vote does not exceed the “usual burdens of voting.” A rule’s impact on members of different racial or ethnic groups is important but the existence of some disparity does not necessarily mean that a system is not equally open. A procedure that apparently works for 98% or more of voters to whom it applies, minority and non-minority alike, is unlikely to render a system unequally open. The degree to which a voting rule departs from standard practices is relevant. The policy of not counting out-of-precinct ballots is widespread. The strength of the state interests served by a challenged rule is important. Precinct-based voting helps to distribute voters more evenly, can put polling places closer to voter residences, and helps to ensure that each voter receives a ballot that lists only the relevant candidates and public questions. Courts must consider the state’s entire system of voting; a burden associated with one voting option must be evaluated in the context of the other available means.HB 2023 also passes muster. Arizonans can submit early ballots in several ways. Even if the plaintiffs could demonstrate a disparate burden, Arizona’s “compelling interest in preserving the integrity of its election procedures” would suffice under section 2. Third-party ballot collection can lead to pressure and intimidation and a state may take action to prevent election fraud without waiting for it to occur within its own borders. View "Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court granting Rasean Clayton's application for a temporary and permanent injunction enjoining Kanye West and his presidential electors from appearing on the general election ballot for president in 2020, holding that West did not present the Secretary of State with the requisite number of qualified electors for placement on the ballot.The Supreme Court concluded that the presidential electors had failed to file the statement of interest required by Ariz. Rev. Stat. 16-341(I) and that, therefore, the nomination petition signatures submitted on their behalf were invalid, making West unable to qualify for the ballot. Given the dispositive effect of the failure of West's electors' to qualify for the ballot, the Supreme Court did not address his other arguments. View "Clayton v. West" on Justia Law

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Jim Harreld and Karl Banks ran for the position of District 4 Supervisor in Madison County, Mississippi. Banks won the November 5, 2019 election by fifty-seven votes. The Madison County Election Commission certified Banks as the winner of the election. Harreld challenged the election and asked the trial court to order a special election or to declare him the winner of the November election. The Madison County Circuit Court affirmed the election as certified. Harreld appealed. Finding no reversible error in the circuit court's order, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Harreld v. Banks" on Justia Law