Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

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In this advisory opinion, the Supreme Court approved for placement on the ballot a proposed amendment entitled "Voter Approval of Constitutional Amendments," holding that the proposed amendment complies with the single-subject requirement of Fla. Const. art. XI, 3 and that the ballot title and summary comply with Fla. Stat. 101.161(1). The proposed amendment would amend sections 5 and 7 of article XI of the Florida Constitution. The Attorney General petitioned the Supreme Court for an opinion on whether the proposed amendment was valid. The Supreme approved the proposed amendment for placement on the ballot, determining (1) the proposed amendment meets the single-subject requirement; and (2) the ballot title and summary comply with section 101.161(1). View "Advisory Opinion to the Attorney General re Voter Approval of Constitutional Amendments" on Justia Law

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Florida's 2018 U.S. Senate election triggered a statewide recount. The Democratic Executive Committee challenged the signature-match requirements of Florida’s vote-by-mail statute, which gave voters who learned that their votes had been blocked for signature mismatch until “5 p.m. one day before the election” to verify their identities by submitting an affidavit and an accepted form of identification. They also challenged Florida’s law allowing prospective voters who could not prove their eligibility to cast provisional ballots; provisional ballots rejected because of signature mismatch could not be cured after the fact. The district court entered a modified preliminary injunction allowing the “ballots of those voters who were belatedly notified of signature mismatch” to be counted, provided that “those voters timely verified their identities.” The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) sought an emergency stay, which was denied by the Eleventh Circuit. The preliminary injunction expired two days later. About three months later, the motions panel issued an opinion explaining its denial of the emergency stay. In 2019, S.B. 7066, significantly amended the signature-match provisions. The plaintiffs dismissed their lawsuit. Defendants moved to dismiss their appeal of the preliminary injunction. The NRSC agreed that the case was moot but moved to vacate the order granting a preliminary injunction and the stay-panel opinion. The Eleventh Circuit concluded that it retained jurisdiction to consider the proposed motions but declined to vacate the prior opinions because they will not have negative collateral effects on any party. View "Democratic Executive Committee of Florida v. National Republican Senatorial Committee" on Justia Law

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In October 2019, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed a Commonwealth Court order and directed that the name of Sherrie Cohen be placed on the November 5, 2019 ballot as an independent candidate for Philadelphia City Council-at-Large. Because the Board of Elections only had until the close of business on October 4, 2019 to add Cohen’s name to the ballot, the Supreme Court issued its order noting that an opinion would follow. By this opinion, the Supreme Court forth its reasons for concluding that Cohen’s withdrawal as a candidate in the Democratic primary election for City Council-at-Large did not preclude her from running in the general election as an independent candidate. On August 16, 2019, the trial court issued an order granting the petitions to set aside Cohen’s nomination papers. In an opinion in support of the order, the court looked to Packrall v. Quail, 192 A.2d 704 (Pa. 1963), where the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that when a candidate withdraws his nomination petitions for a primary ballot “within the permitted period,” his subsequently filed nomination papers may be accepted. The trial court distinguished Cohen’s case from Packrall because “Cohen required Court intervention to leave the primary ballot.” The court determined this to be the decisive factor in concluding that she was “subject to the ‘sore loser’ provision.” Cohen filed a timely appeal to the Commonwealth Court. In a single-judge memorandum and order, the trial court was affirmed, holding “[w]hen a person withdraws of his or her own volition within the time for filing, it ‘undoes,’ ab initio, the filing because a person gets to choose whether he or she wants to go through the primary process to seek an office.” Cohen asserted on appeal of the Commonwealth Court’s order that that court erred by failing to consider withdrawal by court order under Election Code Section 978.4 to have the same effect as voluntary withdrawal pursuant to Section 914. The Supreme Court agreed with Cohen that “[t]he Commonwealth Court failed to acknowledge that the important dividing line in this area of the law is between voluntary withdraw[als] and candidates getting stricken from the ballot. … Because there is no principled reason to distinguish between the voluntariness of a withdrawal under Section 914 or Section 978.4, Cohen is entitled to relief from this Court.” View "In Re: Nomination Papers of Sherrie Cohen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied a writ of mandamus sought by Tiffany White and Tiffany White 4 for the People compelling the Franklin County Board of Elections to place White's name on the March 17, 2020 primary ballot as a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for the office of state representative for the 25th Ohio House District, holding that White did not establish that she had a clear legal right to have her name appear on the ballot. The Board informed White that her name would not appear on the ballot because her petition was one signature short of the required fifty signatures. Before the Supreme Court, White asserted that the Board abused its discretion by failing to validate three signatures on her nominating petition. White also filed a motion to strike the brief of amicus curiae Miranda Lange. The Supreme Court denied the writ and motion to strike, holding (1) White failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence that the three disputed petition signatures were genuine or that the Board abused its discretion in rejecting them; and (2) White was not entitled to a motion to strike. View "State ex rel. White v. Franklin County Board of Elections" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals holding that a proposed charter amendment was not manifestly unconstitutional but was an improper referendum, holding that the proposed amendment was not an improper exercise of the charter amendment power and was not manifestly unconstitutional. After the City of Bloomington changed from a system of open trash collection to a system of organized collection a group of residents attempted, through an amendment to the City Charter, to require that voters pre-approve a change in the method of trash collection. The City refused to put the proposed charter amendment on the ballot. In the original appeal, the Supreme Court remanded the case to the court of appeals for decision on whether the proposed amendment would violate the Contract Clauses of the United States and Minnesota Constitutions and whether it was an attempt to exercise the voter referendum power through an improper means. On remand, the court of appeals concluded that the proposed amendment was an improper referendum but was not unconstitutional. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the proposed charter amendment was not an improper referendum and did not violate the Contract Clauses. View "Jennissen v. City of Bloomington" on Justia Law

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Respondents-Proponents Andrew Moore, Janet Ann Largent, and Lynda Johnson filed Initiative Petition No. 420, State Question No. 804 (IP 420), with the Secretary of State of Oklahoma. The initiative measure proposed to submit to the voters the creation of a new constitutional article, Article V-A, which would create the Citizens' Independent Redistricting Commission (Commission). IP 420 would vest the power to redistrict the State's House of Representatives and Senatorial districts, as well as Federal Congressional Districts, in this newly created Commission. IP 420 would also repeal current constitutional provisions concerning state legislative apportionment. Notice of the filing was published on October 31, 2019; within 10 business days, Petitioners Rogers Gaddis and Eldon Merklin petitioned the Oklahoma Supreme Court in its original jurisdiction to challenge the legal sufficiency of IP 420. They alleged the proposed amendment by article suffered from two fatal constitutional defects: (1) the single subject rule, and (2) the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In case number 118405, the Supreme Court determined IP was legally sufficient for submission to the people of Oklahoma. In case number 118406, however, the Court determined the gist statement of IP 420 did not fairly describe the proposed amendment, and ordered it struck from the ballot. View "In re: Initiative Petition 420, State Question No. 804" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted a limited writ compelling the Stark County Board of Elections to review a petition to transfer certain territory from one school district to another for placement on the March 17, 2020 primary-election ballot, holding that Relators were entitled to a limited writ of mandamus. This was the third case involving a petition to transfer the territory of the village of Hills and Dales from Plain Local School District to Jackson Local School District. In the second case, the Supreme Court ordered Plain Local School District Board of Education to forward the petition to the elections board to check the sufficiency of the signatures on the petition. After the elections board verified that the petition contained a sufficient number of valid signatures, Relators, residents of Hills and Dales, brought this action seeking a writ of mandamus to compel the placement of the transfer proposal on the March 17 ballot. The Supreme Court granted mandamus relief, holding that the elections board had a duty to determine whether the proposal can be placed on an election ballot. View "State ex rel. Dunn v. Plain Local School District Board of Education" on Justia Law

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The en banc court reversed the district court's judgment for defendants in an action brought by the DNC and others. The DNC challenged Arizona's policy of wholly discarding, rather than counting or partially counting, ballots cast in the wrong precinct. The DNC also challenged House Bill 2023, a 2016 statute criminalizing the collection and delivery of another person’s ballot. The en banc court held that Arizona’s policy of wholly discarding, rather than counting or partially counting, out-of-precinct ballots, and H.B. 2023's criminalization of the collection of another person's ballot, have a discriminatory impact on American Indian, Hispanic, and African American voters in Arizona, in violation of the “results test” of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The en banc court further held that H.B. 2023's criminalization of the collection of another person's ballot was enacted with discriminatory intent, in violation of the "intent test" of Section 2 of the VRA and of the Fifteenth Amendment. The en banc court did not reach the DNC's First and Fourteenth Amendment claims. View "The Democratic National Committee v. Hobbs" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction enjoining the enforcement of Ark. Code Sec. 7-6-203(b)(1), which provides that candidates can only accept contributions within two years of an election. Plaintiff, who wished to donate to candidates running for state office in Arkansas's 2022 election, alleged that this blackout period violates her First Amendment rights. The court held that plaintiff alleged Article III standing because the allegations in her complaint and affidavit established that she intended to engage in a course of conduct arguably affected with a constitutional interest, but proscribed by a statute, and that there was a credible threat of prosecution if she donated to a candidate. The court also held that the district court correctly determined that, at this early stage of the litigation, plaintiff was likely to succeed on the merits, because Arkansas failed to show how the blackout period advances its anti-corruption interest. View "Jones v. Jegley" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, credentialed election monitors in Chicago during the 2016 Illinois primary election and a citizen who voted in the election, alleged that during the statutorily mandated post-election audit of electronic voting machines, they witnessed rampant fraud and irregularities by the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners’ employees conducting the audit. The Illinois Election Code, 10 ILCS 5/1-1, provides for electronic voting, with a permanent paper record. After an election, the Board randomly tests five percent of the electronic voting equipment in service during that election by manually counting the votes marked on the permanent paper record for comparison to the electronically-generated results. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of their suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, in which they alleged that the post-election audit fraud violated their right to vote. Illinois law expressly precludes the findings of the post-election audit from changing or altering the election results; no matter how improper the Board employees’ conduct was during the audit, it could not have affected the Plaintiffs’ right to vote. Plaintiffs did not plead a plausible claim that the Board violated their right to freely associate or right to petition the government View "Shipley v. Chicago Board of Elections" on Justia Law