Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

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The Eleventh Circuit sua sponte vacated its previous opinion and substituted the following opinion.In 2015, plaintiffs filed suit challenging Alabama's 2011 Photo Voter Identification Law passed by the Alabama legislature as House Bill 19 and codified at Ala. Code 17-9-30. The voter ID law took effect in June 2014 and requires all Alabama voters to present a photo ID when casting in-person or absentee votes. Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent the enforcement of Alabama's voter ID law, alleging that the law violates the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments of the Constitution; Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), 52 U.S.C. 10301; and Section 201 of the VRA, 52 U.S.C. 10501.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting summary judgment in favor of the Secretary, concluding that plaintiffs have failed to identify any genuine disputes of material facts and because no reasonable factfinder could find, based on the evidence presented, that Alabama's voter ID law is discriminatory. The court explained that the burden of providing a photo ID in order to vote is a minimal burden on Alabama's voters—especially when Alabama accepts so many different forms of photo ID and makes acquiring one simple and free for voters who lack a valid ID but wish to obtain one. Therefore, the Alabama voter ID law does not violate the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments of the Constitution, nor does it violate the VRA. View "Greater Birmingham Ministries v. Secretary of State for the State of Alabama" on Justia Law

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CREW filed a citizen complaint with the Federal Election Commission against New Models, a now-defunct non-profit entity, alleging violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act’s (FECA) registration and reporting requirements for “political committees,” 52 U.S.C. 30109(a)(1). After an initial investigation, the Commission deadlocked 2–2 on whether to proceed; an affirmative vote of four commissioners is required to initiate enforcement proceedings. With only two votes in favor of an enforcement action against New Models, the Commission dismissed CREW’s complaint. Two Commissioners explained that New Models did not qualify as a “political committee” under FECA but stated they were also declining to proceed with enforcement in an "exercise of ... prosecutorial discretion,” given the age of the activity and the fact that the organization appears no longer active.The district court granted the Commission summary judgment, reasoning that a nonenforcement decision is not subject to judicial review if the Commissioners who voted against enforcement “place[] their judgment squarely on the ground of prosecutorial discretion.” The Commission’s “legal analyses are reviewable only if they are the sole reason for the dismissal of an administrative complaint.” The D.C. Circuit affirmed. While FECA allows a private party to challenge a nonenforcement decision by the Commission if it is “contrary to law,” this decision was based in part on prosecutorial discretion and is not reviewable. View "Citizens for Responsibility v. Federal Election Committee" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the circuit court's writ of mandamus and contempt orders in this case, holding that Wis. Stat. 6.50(3) does not place a positive and plain duty on the Wisconsin Elections Commission to change the registration status of eligible voters when receiving reliable information that the elector moved out of their municipality.Petitioners sought a writ of mandamus against the Commission and its commissioners to carry out the instructions set forth in section 6.50(3) and change the registration of electors who may have moved. The circuit court granted the writ and later found several commissioners in contempt after the Commission failed to comply. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the writ was erroneously granted. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court erred by issuing a writ of mandamus ordering the Commission to carry out the requirements of section 6.50(e) because the Commission has no statutory duty, and therefore, no plain and positive duty, to carry out the requirements of the statute. View "Zignego v. Wisconsin Elections Commission" on Justia Law

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The issue presented for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's review required the Court to revisit its relatively recent holding that the signature of a registered voter “may not be stricken from a nominating petition solely because the address set forth on the nominating petition is different from the address at which the signer is currently registered to vote.” Following the Court's unanimous decision in In re Vodvarka, 140 A.3d 639 (Pa. 2016), the General Assembly in October of 2019 enacted Act 77, which made significant changes to Pennsylvania’s Election Code, such as the advent of no-excuse mail-in voting. One lesser-known change effected by Act 77 was the amendment of 25 P.S. section 2868, which required a signer of a nominating petition to add certain information. Significantly, only one change was made to the statute by the amendment: the former requirement that a signer add his “residence” was replaced with a new requirement that he add the “address where he is duly registered and enrolled.” After careful review, the Supreme Court concluded this legislative change in statutory text displaced the Court's holding in Vodvarka pertaining to the address requirement. Furthermore, the Court concluded the statute as amended, plainly and unambiguously imposed a mandatory duty on a signer of a nominating petition to add the address where he or she was duly registered and enrolled, and that the failure to comply with this requirement exposes the signature to viable legal challenge. As the Commonwealth Court reached this same conclusion below, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "In Re: Nom. s. of Major, R." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied a writ of mandamus compelling Secretary of State Frank LaRose to appoint Sharon Sweda to the Lorain County Board of Elections, holding that the Lorain County Democratic Party Committee did not demonstrate its entitlement to a writ of mandamus under the circumstances of this case.In rejecting the Committee's recommendation to appoint Sweda for appointment to the Lorain County Board of Elections, LaRose concluded that Sweda had not demonstrated "the judgment or adequate level of integrity necessary to ensure voter confidence." Thereafter, the Committee commenced this expedited action for a writ of mandamus. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that the Committee failed to prove that LaRose abused his discretion when he rejected the Committee's recommendation. View "State ex rel. Lorain County Democratic Party Executive Committee v. LaRose" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss this action claiming seeking declaratory and injunctive relief challenging the Secretary of State's (Defendant) "ruling of an election official," which added a seventh category for absentee voting, "COVID-19," to the application for absentee ballots for the August 11, 2020 primary election in contemplation of the ongoing pandemic, holding that this Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction.Plaintiffs, four candidates in the August primary for the Republican Party's nomination for the office of United States representative for Connecticut's First and Second Congressional Districts, brought this proceeding pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 9-323, claiming that Defendant's change to the application violated Conn. Const. art. VI, 7 and that the application was inconsistent with the terms of Executive Order No. 7QQ. Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Supreme Court granted the motion to dismiss, holding that jurisdiction lay in the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford. View "Fay v. Merrill" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the district court issuing a declaratory judgment generally in favor of Plaintiffs regarding the proper construction and application of the election procedures in Neb. Rev. Stat. 31-735(2)(b), holding that Plaintiffs failed to join indispensable parties.Plaintiffs, several board members of a sanitary improvement district, brought this action to determine the proper construction and application of section 31-735. The district court entered a declaratory judgment generally in favor of Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court vacated the district court's judgment, holding that Plaintiffs failed to join indispensable parties and that, therefore, the district court lacked jurisdiction to determine the controversy. View "Sanitary Improvement District No. 2 of Knox County v. Fischer" on Justia Law

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Kshama Sawant served on the Seattle City Council since 2013. Ernest Lou, among others, filed recall charges alleging that Councilmember Sawant delegated city employment decisions to a political organization outside city government, used city resources to promote a ballot initiative and failed to comply with public disclosure requirements, disregarded state orders related to COVID-19 and endangered the safety of city workers and other individuals by admitting hundreds of people into Seattle City Hall while it was closed to the public, and led a protest march to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s private residence, the location of which Councilmember Sawant knew was protected under state confidentiality laws. The trial court found these charges factually and legally sufficient for recall. Councilmember Sawant challenged the ballot synopsis. The Washington Supreme Court determined petitioner’s charges that Councilmember Sawant delegated city employment decisions to a political organization outside city government and a portion of the charge that Councilmember Sawant’s actions in divulging the location of Mayor Durkan’s private residence amounted to criminal harassment in violation of RCW 9A.46.020 were legally insufficient. The Court affirmed in all other respects, and declined to address the Councilmember's challenge to the ballot synopsis, because RCW 29A.56.140 provided that “[a]ny decision regarding the ballot synopsis by the superior court is final.” View "In re Recall of Sawant" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court disqualifying the "Stop Surprise Billing and Protect Patients Act" ballot initiative (the Initiative) from the November 2020 general election ballot, holding that there were an insufficient number of signatures to qualify for the ballot.On appeal, Appellant argued that signatures gathered by registered circulators may not be disqualified pursuant to Ariz. Rev. Stat. 19-118(E) if the circulators "de-registered" pursuant to the provisions of the Arizona Secretary of State 2019 Election Procedures Manual (2019 EPM) before the signatures are challenged and that subpoenas were not properly served on the circulators. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) by de-registering pursuant to the provisions of the 2019 EPM a registered petition circulator may not evade the statutory requirement in section 19-118(E) that registered circulators subpoenaed in an election challenge appear for trial; and (2) the subpoenas were properly served on the circulators. View "Leach v. Hobbs" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss this action seeking an order rescinding an application for absentee ballot for the August 2020 primary elections prepared by the Secretary of State and for other relief, holding that this Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction.The four plaintiffs in this case were candidates in the August 2020 primary election for the Republican Party's nomination for the office of United States Representative for Connecticut's First and Second Congressional Districts. Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief challenging the Secretary of State's (Defendant) ruling adding a seventh category for absentee voting. The Supreme Court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Conn. Gen. Stat. 2-323, holding that jurisdiction lay in the superior court in the judicial district of Hartford. View "Fay v. Merrill" on Justia Law