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Seattle voters approved the "Democracy Voucher Program," intending to increase civic engagement. Recipients could give their vouchers to qualified municipal candidates, who could redeem those vouchers for campaign purposes. The city would find the program through property taxes. Mark Elster and Sarah Pynchon sued, arguing the taxes funding the program was unconstitutional. Because the program did not violate the First Amendment, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed. View "Elster v. City Of Seattle" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Fred Paquin served the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians (the Tribe), a federally recognized Indian tribe whose territory was located within the geographic boundaries of Michigan, in two capacities: as the chief of police for the tribal police department and as an elected member of the board of directors, the governing body of the Tribe. In 2010, plaintiff pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to defraud the United States by dishonest means in violation of 18 USC 371, for which he was sentenced to a year and a day in prison. The underlying conduct involved the misuse of federal funds granted to the tribal police department. In both 2013 and 2015, plaintiff sought to run for a position on defendant’s city council in the November general election. Plaintiff was rebuffed each time by defendant’s city manager, who denied plaintiff’s request to be placed on the ballot. In each instance, defendant’s city manager relied on Const 1963, art 11, sec. 8 to conclude that plaintiff’s prior felony conviction barred him from running for city council. Plaintiff brought the underlying declaratory action in the Mackinac Circuit Court, seeking a ruling that his position in tribal government did not constitute employment in “local, state, or federal government” under Const 1963, art 11, sec. 8. The Michigan Supreme Court determined that tribal government did not constitute "local...government." Accordingly, the Court reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded this matter back to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "Paquin v. City of St. Ignace" on Justia Law

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This recount appeal arose out of the 2018 Alaska House of Representatives race for District 1. Following a recount the election was certified, with Kathryn Dodge receiving 2,662 votes and Barton LeBon receiving 2,663. Dodge filed this recount appeal pursuant to AS 15.20.510, arguing: (1) one ballot, excluded as “overvoted” because it contained markings in more than one oval, should have been counted for her; (2) two counted ballots should have been excluded because they had been cast by individuals who were not residents of the district; and (3) one ballot, excluded due to the voter’s registration in another district, should have been counted because the voter’s registration in the other district was inadvertent. LeBon challenged the same overvoted ballot as Dodge, but he argued it should have been included as a vote for him. LeBon also challenged five additional ballots. The Director maintained her original vote-counting decisions in the face of these challenges. At a hearing on December 20, 2018, a superior court issued a recommendation to uphold the Director of the Division of Elections’ vote-counting decisions. On January 4, 2019, the Alaska Supreme Court issued an order affirming the recount decision and indicated that this opinion would follow. View "LeBon v. Meyer" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit challenging Arkansas's ballot access requirements for independent candidates. The Secretary appealed the district court's grant of plaintiff's request for declaratory and injunctive relief. The Eighth Circuit dismissed the appeal as moot, because the state legislature recently amended the challenged statute to accord with the petition filing deadline that plaintiff had sought, and thus no controversy remains. The court held that the equities weighed against vacatur, and the public interest is best served by a substantial body of judicial precedents limiting the burden that those requirements may place on candidates' and voters' First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. View "Moore v. Thurston" on Justia Law

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North Carolina plaintiffs claimed that the state’s congressional districting plan discriminated against Democrats. Maryland plaintiffs claimed that their state’s plan discriminated against Republicans. The plaintiffs cited the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause, the Elections Clause, and Article I, section 2. The district courts ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. The Supreme Court vacated, finding that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts because they lack “judicially discoverable and manageable standards for resolving [them].” Citing the history of partisan gerrymandering, the Court stated that the Constitution assigns electoral districting problems to the state legislatures, expressly checked and balanced by the Federal Congress, with no suggestion that the federal courts had a role to play. “To hold that legislators cannot take their partisan interests into account when drawing district lines would essentially countermand the Framers’ decision to entrust districting to political entities.” The Constitution does not require proportional representation, and federal courts are neither equipped nor authorized to apportion political power as a matter of fairness. Deciding among the different visions of fairness poses basic questions that are political, not legal. There are no legal standards discernible in the Constitution for making such judgments. The Court distinguished one-person-one-vote and racial gerrymandering cases as susceptible to legal standards. Any assertion that partisan gerrymanders violate the core right of voters to choose their representatives is more likely grounded in the Guarantee Clause, which “guarantee[s] to every State in [the] Union a Republican Form of Government.” That Clause does not provide the basis for a justiciable claim. View "Rucho v. Common Cause" on Justia Law

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Petitioners sought review of the SEC's order approving Rule 2030, which regulates the political contributions of those members of FINRA, prohibiting a placement agent from accepting compensation for soliciting government business from certain candidates and elected officials within two years of having contributed to such an official's electoral campaign or to the transition or inaugural expenses of a successful candidate. The DC Circuit held that NYGOP has standing, but denied its petition on the merits, holding that the SEC acted within its authority in adopting Rule 2030; doing so was not arbitrary and capricious because the SEC had sufficient evidence it was needed; and the Rule does not violate the First Amendment in view of our holding in Blount v. SEC, 61 F.3d 938 (1995), in which the court upheld a functionally identical rule against the same challenge. View "New York Republican State Committee v. SEC" on Justia Law

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Petitioners Carol Hedges and Steve Briggs were the designated representatives of the proponents of proposed Initiative 2019–2020 #3 (“Initiative #3”), which, if enacted, would repeal in its entirety the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, section 20 of article X of the Colorado Constitution (“TABOR”). The Title Board declined to set a title for this initiative because it concluded that the initiative did not constitute a single subject as required by the Colorado Constitution. Petitioners petitioned the Colorado Supreme Court for review. The Supreme Court concluded the title constituted a single subject, and returned Initiative #3 to the Title Board for the purpose of setting a title, ballot title and submission clause. View "In re Ballot Title #3" on Justia Law

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After the 2010 census, Virginia redrew legislative districts for its Senate and House of Delegates. Voters sued, claiming racial gerrymandering. The House of Delegates intervened. The district court held that 11 districts were unconstitutionally drawn, enjoined Virginia from conducting elections for those districts before adopting a new plan, and gave the General Assembly several months to adopt that plan. Virginia’s Attorney General announced that the state would not appeal. The Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by the House for lack of standing. To establish standing, a litigant must show a concrete and particularized injury, that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct and is likely to be redressed by a favorable decision. Standing must be met at every stage of the litigation. To appeal a decision that the primary party does not challenge, an intervenor must independently demonstrate standing. The state itself had standing to appeal, and could have designated agents to do so, but did not designate the House to represent its interests. Under Virginia law, authority to represent the state’s interests in civil litigation rests exclusively with its Attorney General. The House has consistently purported to represent only its own interests and lacks standing to appeal in its own right. A judicial decision invalidating a state law does not inflict a discrete, cognizable injury on each organ of government that participated in the law’s passage. Virginia’s Constitution allocates redistricting authority to the “General Assembly,” of which the House constitutes only a part. The issue is the constitutionality of a concededly enacted redistricting plan, not the results of the chamber’s poll or the validity of any counted or uncounted vote. Redrawing district lines may affect the chamber’s membership, but the House as an institution has no cognizable interest in the identity of its members. View "Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill" on Justia Law

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Citizens submitted a referendum petition to challenge Amador Water Agency’s Board Resolution No. 2015-19, adopting new water service rates for Agency customers. The Clerk of the Agency rejected the referendum petition and refused to place it on an election ballot, on the grounds that: (1) the petition was “confusing;” and (2) the rate change, while subject to challenge by initiative, was not subject to referendum. Appellants Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Charlotte Asher, and Laura Boggs appealed the trial court’s denial of their petition for a peremptory writ of mandate against Amador Water Agency, its Clerk, and its Board of Directors (collectively “the Agency”). Appellants argued: (1) the Clerk exceeded her ministerial duties by declaring the petition confusing; and (2) referendum was an appropriate avenue to challenge the new water rates. After review, the Court of Appeal determined: (1) the Clerk exceeded the scope of her ministerial duty and should have certified the referendum petition as adequate; and (2) the Resolution was not subject to referendum. The Court reached a different conclusion in a different case currently under California Supreme Court review. Because the Court concluded the Resolution was not subject to referendum, it affirmed the judgment denying the writ petition. View "Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. v. Amador Water Agency" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the Appellate Division affirming the judgment of Supreme Court directing disclosure of electronic copies of ballots stored by Essex County voting machines in the November 2015 general election, holding that N.Y. Elec. Law 3-222 protects disclosure of ballot copies during the relevant time frame. In December 2015, Petitioner requested the electronic ballot copies preserved by the Essex County Board of Elections (County Board). The County Attorney determined that section 3-222(2), which prohibits examination of "voted ballots" absent a court order or legislative committee direction during the first two years following an election, barred examination of the "voted ballots." In ordering immediate release of the ballot images Supreme Court concluded that section 3-222 did not protect the copies from disclosure and that the two-year limitation on examination of voted ballots outlined in section 3-222(2) did not encompass electronic ballot copies. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that section 3-222(2) prevented the County Board from granting Petitioner's request for disclosure of electronic copies of those ballots. View "Kosmider v. Whitney" on Justia Law