Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Arkansas Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court granted in part and dismissed in part an original action brought by Petitioners challenging the sufficiency of a state-wide petition to refer Act 579 of 2019 to the people of Arkansas on the November 3, 2020 general election ballot, holding that the petition was insufficient because it did not comply with Ark. Code Ann. 7-9-601(b)(3).Act 579 expanded the scope of the practice of optometry in Arkansas to permit licensed optometrists to perform certain procedures. Safe Surgery Arkansas (SSA), a ballot-question committee, filed with the Secretary its petition containing more than 84,000 signatures. The Secretary certified that the petition met constitutional signature requirements. Thereafter, Petitioners filed the instant original action alleging four counts regarding the insufficiency of the petition. The special master found that SSA lacked sufficient valid signatures to qualify the petition for the ballot. The Supreme Court granted in part and dismissed as moot in part the petition, holding (1) SSA's petition was insufficient because it failed to certify that its paid canvassers had passed criminal background checks; and (2) the remaining challenges to the petition were moot. View "Arkansans for Healthy Eyes v. Thurston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed as moot Count I of Petitioners' complaint alleging that a proposed ballot petition's ballot title and popular name were invalid, holding that, in light of the holding of a companion case handed down today concluding that the proposed ballot petition was insufficient, Count I was moot.The Secretary of State certified a statewide referendum petition on Act 579 of 2019 for placement on the November 3, 2020 general-election ballot. Petitioners filed this original action challenging the proposed ballot petition and alleging four counts related to the sufficient of the petition. The Supreme Court bifurcated the proceedings between Count I and Counts II-IV. In a companion case, the Supreme Court granted the petition in part, concluding that the proposed ballot petition was insufficient. Because of this holding, any rulings on the issues in Count I were moot. View "Arkansans For Healthy Eyes v. Thurston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed as moot Appellees' motion to dismiss the appeal by Citizens for a Better Pope County, a local option ballot question committee, holding that the claims set forth in Citizens' appeal were moot.After the Pope County Quorum Court adopted a resolution in support of a casino license application, Citizens sought declaratory and injunctive relief in the circuit court requesting an order prohibiting and county judge and quorum court from taking any official action to expressly approve a casino applicant without first presenting the issue to voters in an election, as required by Ordinance 2018-O-42. Appellees filed a motion to dismiss. The day before the hearing on the motion Ordinance 2018-O-42 was repealed. The circuit court denied declaratory relief, concluding that Ordinance 2018-O-42 unconstitutionally conflicted with amendment 100 of the Arkansas Constitution, and further held that the mandamus request was moot. The Supreme Court dismissed this appeal as moot, holding that, due to the repeal of Ordinance 2018-O-42, this Court's judgment on Citizens' claims would have no practical effect on an existing legal controversy. View "Citizens for a Better Pope County v. Cross" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed as moot Plaintiff's appeal from the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint challenging a referendum petition preventing Act 579 of 2019 from becoming law, holding that because of the resolution of the petition for referendum in a separate case, this appeal was moot.Act 579 permits optometrists to perform surgical procedures. Defendant, a ballot question committee, filed a statewide referendum petition preventing the Act from becoming law. Plaintiff, also a ballot question committee, was formed to defend the Act. Plaintiff filed a complaint asking the circuit court to enjoin the Secretary of State from counting the petition signatures because the petition did not comply with newly enacted Act 376. The circuit court dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and concluded that the case was barred by res judicata. Plaintiff appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that a decision decided today that the petition for referendum cannot be placed on the ballot mooted the issues here. View "Arkansans For Healthy Eyes v. Thurston" on Justia Law

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In this action involving two initiative petitions proposing constitutional amendments that Petitioners sought to have placed on the November 2020 election ballot the Supreme Court dismissed in part Petitioners' petition challenging the Secretary of State's rejection of the amendments, holding that count three of the petition, which this opinion addressed, was moot.The Secretary of State dismissed the initiative petitions because Petitioners failed to verify that their paid canvassers had passed criminal-background checks. Petitioners then filed this original action, alleging three counts. The Supreme Court bifurcated the action, and this opinion addressed count three. Today, the Supreme Court concluded in a companion case addressing counts one and two that the criminal background affidavit was fatally flawed for both proposed amendments. The Supreme Court held that the issues in count three were moot because its judgment would have no practical legal effect on an existing controversy. View "Miller v. Thurston" on Justia Law

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In this action involving two initiative petitions proposing constitutional amendments that Petitioners sought to have placed on the November 2020 election ballot the Supreme Court denied in part and dismissed in part Petitioners' petition challenging the Secretary of State's determination that the certification language submitted under Ark. Code Ann. 7-9-601(b)(3) was insufficient, holding that Petitioners did not comply with section 7-9-601(b)(3).The petition here contained three counts. The Supreme Court bifurcated the proceedings, and this opinion addressed counts one and two. The Supreme Court denied count one of the petition regarding the determination that the certification language was insufficient, which rendered moot the remainder of the petition. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) Petitioners did not comply with section 7-9-601(b)(3) when they failed to certify that their paid canvassers had passed criminal background checks; and (2) neither initiative petition can qualify for the November 2020 election ballot. View "Miller v. Thurston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's order finding that Emily White Lengefeld was a certified candidate for the position of Arkansas Court of Appeals District 4, Position 2, holding that the circuit court correctly determined that Lengefeld was a certified candidate for the position.Stephanie Potter Barrett, also a candidate for Position 2, filed a petition in the circuit court requesting a writ of mandamus and declaratory judgment declaring Lengefeld's petition for candidacy and political-practices pledge invalid and seeking removal of Lengefeld from the ballot for the March 3, 2020 election. The trial court found that Lengefeld was a certified candidate for the position. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err. View "Barrett v. Thurston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's order granting Tyray Carr's petition for writ of mandamus and declaratory judgment declaring James Winfield Wyatt ineligible to file for, be elected to, or hold the office of circuit court judge, holding that the circuit court did not err by removing Wyatt from the March 2020 ballot.Wyatt filed to be placed on the ballot as a candidate for the office of Sixth Judicial District, Division Fourteen circuit court judge in the March 3, 2020 election. Carr, a registered voter, filed a petition for writ of mandamus and declaratory judgment alleging that Wyatt was ineligible to run for public office because he had been found guilty of three misdemeanor hot-check violations. The circuit court found that Carr met his burden of proving that Wyatt had been convicted of an infamous crime and a public trust crime, rendering Wyatt ineligible to run for the office of circuit judge. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court (1) was correct in its application of the preponderance of the evidence burden of proof in deciding Carr's petition; (2) did not err in granting Carr's petition for writ of mandamus and motion for declaratory judgment; and (3) did not abuse its discretion in failing to award attorney's fees. View "Wyatt v. Carr" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted in part the petition for a writ of mandamus sought by Safe Surgery Arkansas and Laurie Barber (SSA) seeking to compel the Arkansas Secretary of State to count signatures SSA obtained in support of a ballot petition for a referendum on Act 579 of 2019, holding the new requirements of Act 376 of 2019 were not in effect at the time SSA filed its proposed referendum and supporting signatures.Act 376 added additional requirements for getting a referendum on the election ballot. The Secretary of State had refused to count most of the signatures SSA obtained in support of the ballot petition on the grounds that they were obtained in violation of Act 376. In this petition, SSA sought to have the signatures counted pursuant to the pre-Act 376 legal framework, arguing, inter alia, that Act 376's emergency clause was defective, rendering ineffective the changes in Act 376 until after SSA had already filed its ballot petition. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that Act 376's emergency clause was ineffective and that a writ of mandamus directing the Secretary of State to address SSA's filings under the pre-Act 376 framework was the only adequate remedy. View "Safe Surgery Arkansas v. Thurston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed as moot Petitioner's petition for an order compelling Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge to certify the popular name and ballot title of a proposed amendment to the Arkansas Constitution, holding that Act 387 of 2019 rendered the original action petition moot.The proposed amendment in this case was entitled "The Arkansas Recreational Marijuana Amendment of 2020." Petitioner Arkansas True Grass was a ballot question committee that sponsored the proposed amendment. After the Attorney General rejected the popular name and ballot title of the proposed amendment, Petitioner asked the Supreme Court to require that the Attorney General certify the proposed measure. In response, the Attorney General asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the petition as moot in light of the passage of Act 387, which eliminated the requirement that sponsors of initiative petitions obtain the Attorney General's certification of the proposed amendment's popular name and ballot title prior to circulation of the initiative petition. The Supreme Court agreed and dismissed the original action petition, holding that Petitioner's request was moot because the Attorney General's certification would have no practical legal effect on the parties. View "Arkansas True Grass v. Rutledge" on Justia Law