Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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The case involves the Arizona Republican Party (ARP) and its attorneys, who challenged the manner in which Maricopa County election officials conducted a mandatory hand count of ballots following the 2020 general election. The ARP argued that the hand count should have been based on precincts rather than voting centers, as prescribed by the Election Procedures Manual (EPM). The trial court dismissed the ARP's complaint and awarded attorney fees against the ARP and its attorneys under A.R.S. § 12-349(A)(1) and (F), which provides for such fees if a claim is groundless and not made in good faith. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court's rulings.The Supreme Court of the State of Arizona held that the attorney fees award was improper because the ARP's claim was not groundless, thus there was no need to determine whether the claim was made in the absence of good faith. The court found that the ARP's claim was more than "barely" colorable, as there was a plain-language conflict between § 16-602(B), which requires a precinct hand count, and the 2019 EPM, which permits a voting center hand count. The court also disagreed with the lower courts' rulings that the ARP's claim was groundless due to the unavailability of remedies, the applicability of the election-law time bar on post-election challenges to pre-election procedures, and laches. The court vacated the trial court’s and the court of appeals’ attorney fees awards. View "ARIZONA REPUBLICAN PARTY v RICHER" on Justia Law

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In this case, Quinton Lucas, a registered voter, challenged the approval of Amendment No. 4 in the November 2022 general election. The amendment authorized laws that increased minimum funding for a police force established by a state board of police commissioners. Lucas claimed that the fiscal note summary printed on every ballot cast in the election materially misstated the fiscal note for the measure.The Supreme Court of Missouri, which was reviewing the case, had previously overruled the state's motion to dismiss Lucas' claim. The state had argued that Lucas' contest was time-barred, that the city lacked standing as a voter, and that the statutes providing remedies if an election contest succeeds were unconstitutional.The Supreme Court of Missouri found that the fiscal note summary was both materially inaccurate and seriously misleading. The court held that this constituted an "irregularity" of sufficient magnitude to cast doubt on the validity of the election. As a result, the court ordered a new election on the question to be conducted as part of the statewide general election on November 5, 2024. View "Lucas vs. Ashcroft" on Justia Law

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The case involves Dr. Eric Coomer, the former director of product strategy and security at Dominion Voting Systems, who filed a lawsuit against Make Your Life Epic LLC (doing business as ThriveTime Show) and its podcast host, Clayton Clark. The defendants had published and repeated false claims about Dr. Coomer, alleging that he was a member of "Antifa" and had rigged the 2020 presidential election in favor of Joseph R. Biden and against Donald J. Trump. Dr. Coomer's lawsuit asserted claims for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and civil conspiracy.The defendants filed a "special motion to dismiss" the lawsuit under Colorado’s anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute. The District Court for the District of Colorado denied this motion, determining that Dr. Coomer would likely prevail on the merits of all three of his claims. The defendants appealed this decision, asking the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit to reverse the district court’s order.The Tenth Circuit dismissed the defendants' appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction. The court held that the proposed interlocutory appeal fell outside of the collateral-order doctrine, which provides appellate jurisdiction over a small class of collateral rulings that, although they do not end the litigation, are appropriately deemed final. The court found that the district court's order denying the special motion to dismiss under Colorado’s anti-SLAPP statute was not completely separate from the merits of the case and thus did not meet the requirements of the collateral-order doctrine. View "Coomer v. Make Your Life Epic" on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs, Reverend Kenneth Simon, Reverend Lewis W. Macklin, II, and Helen Youngblood, collectively known as the "Simon Parties," filed a lawsuit against the Ohio Redistricting Commission and several of its members. They alleged that Ohio's congressional districts violated section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, the First Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Fifteenth Amendment. The Simon Parties requested a three-judge court under 28 U.S.C. § 2284, which the Ohio Redistricting Commission opposed, and moved to dismiss the complaint.The district court denied the motion to convene a three-judge court and granted the motions to dismiss. The court also denied all other pending motions. The Simon Parties appealed this decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the district court's decision. The court found that the district court incorrectly determined that the Simon Parties' Fourteenth Amendment claim did not raise a substantial federal question for jurisdictional purposes. The court stated that the Simon Parties' allegations on this claim were sufficient to establish federal jurisdiction. The court concluded that the district court lacked jurisdiction as a single judge to adjudicate any other pending motion because it was required to convene a three-judge court under 28 U.S.C. § 2284.The court reversed the district court's order denying the motion for a three-judge court, vacated the district court's orders granting the motions to dismiss and denying the motion for temporary restraining order and motion for class certification, and remanded the case to the district court with instructions for it immediately to initiate the procedures to convene a three-judge court under 28 U.S.C. § 2284. View "Simon v. DeWine" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a contested municipal general election for the Ward 4 Alderman seat in Coldwater, Mississippi. Levon Hayes was declared the winner, but his opponent, Alice Thomas, filed an election contest, suspecting irregularities in the vote count. Hayes was served with the contest and a Rule 4 summons but did not respond or appear in court. Almost a year later, Thomas applied for a default judgment, which the Tate County Circuit Court granted, declaring Thomas the winner and ordering her immediate swearing in.The case was initially heard in the Tate County Circuit Court, where Thomas applied for a default judgment due to Hayes' failure to respond to the election contest. The court granted the default judgment, declared Thomas the winner, and ordered her immediate swearing in.The case was then brought to the Supreme Court of Mississippi. The court was tasked with determining whether a default judgment was permissible in this general election contest under Mississippi Code Section 23-15-951 and the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure. The court found that a default judgment was not permissible and that Thomas's failure to diligently prosecute her contest required its dismissal with prejudice. The court reversed the default judgment and remanded the case to the circuit court to dismiss Thomas's contest with prejudice and to reinstate Hayes as the elected candidate. The court also noted that the Rule 4 summons served to Hayes was improper and that Thomas's delays in prosecuting her contest violated the public's interest in having elections promptly decided. View "In Re: Contest of the Municipal General Election for the Ward 4 Alderman Seat" on Justia Law

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The case involves the Arkansas Voter Integrity Initiative, Inc., and Conrad Reynolds (appellants) who filed a complaint against John Thurston, the Arkansas Secretary of State, the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners, and Election Systems and Software, LLC (appellees). The appellants claimed that the voting machines approved by the state did not comply with the Arkansas Code and the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) because voters could not independently verify their selections on the ballot before casting their votes. They argued that the machines printed ballots with both bar codes and the voter's selections in English, but the vote tabulator only scanned the bar codes. Since most voters cannot read bar codes, the appellants claimed that voters were unable to verify their votes as required by state and federal law. They also alleged that the appellees committed an illegal exaction by using public funds for the purchase and maintenance of these machines and that Election Systems and Software, LLC violated the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and committed fraud by claiming that its machines complied with state and federal law.The Pulaski County Circuit Court dismissed the appellants' complaint. The court found that the voting machines complied with the Arkansas Code and HAVA. The court also denied the appellants' motion for recusal and their motion for a new trial. The appellants appealed these decisions.The Supreme Court of Arkansas affirmed the lower court's decision. The court found that the voting process complied with the Arkansas Code and HAVA. The court also found that the appellants failed to demonstrate evidence of bias or prejudice sufficient to warrant the recusal of the circuit court judge. Finally, the court found that the appellants were not deprived of their right to a jury trial and that the circuit court did not err by denying their motion for a new trial. View "ARKANSAS VOTER INTEGRITY INITIATIVE, INC., AND CONRAD REYNOLDS v. JOHN THURSTON, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ARKANSAS SECRETARY OF STATE; THE ARKANSAS STATE BOARD OF ELECTION COMMISSIONERS, IN ITS OFFICIAL CAPACITY; AND ELECTION SYSTEMS AND SOFTWARE, LLC" on Justia Law

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In November 2020, Nicholas Douglas was elected to the office of constable of Sumter County. In February 2021, Gregory S. Griggers, the district attorney for the 17th Judicial Circuit, filed a petition for the writ of quo warranto, on behalf of the State of Alabama, alleging that Douglas was not eligible to hold the office of constable because he was not a resident of Sumter County and had "a long history of engaging in conduct that is detrimental to the public good." The trial court denied Douglas's motion to dismiss the petition and after a bench trial, Douglas was removed from office.Douglas appealed, arguing that the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the quo warranto action. The Supreme Court of Alabama agreed, finding that the action did not comply with the requirements set forth in § 6-6-591, Ala. Code 1975. This statute provides two alternative methods for commencing a quo warranto action: at the direction of a circuit-court judge or without the direction of a circuit-court judge on the information of any person giving security for the costs of the action. In this case, neither of these methods were followed. The court concluded that Griggers was not statutorily authorized to unilaterally commence this quo warranto action on the State's behalf without the direction of a circuit-court judge or without providing security for the costs of the action. Therefore, the trial court's judgment was reversed, and the case was remanded with instructions for the trial court to enter an order vacating its judgment. View "Douglas v. Griggers" on Justia Law

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A dispute arose over Pennsylvania's rule requiring mail-in and absentee voters to date the return envelope carrying their ballot. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania had ruled this requirement mandatory and declared that undated or incorrectly dated ballots were invalid under state law. The case centered on whether federal law, specifically Section 10101(a)(2)(B) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, mandated that these non-compliant ballots be counted. This provision prohibits the denial of the right to vote due to an immaterial error or omission on paperwork related to voting.The District Court granted summary judgment for the plaintiffs, declaring that rejecting timely received mail ballots due to missing or incorrect dates violated the federal provision. They reasoned that the date requirement was immaterial, as it played no role in determining a vote's timeliness.However, the appellate court reversed this decision. The court held that the federal provision only applies when the state is determining who may vote, not how a qualified voter must cast their ballot. They found that the provision does not apply to rules, like the date requirement, that govern how a qualified voter must cast their ballot for it to be counted. The court concluded that a contrary approach could not be reconciled with the text and historic backdrop of the statute. Therefore, the court ruled that the federal provision does not override Pennsylvania's date requirement for casting a mail-in ballot. The case was remanded for further consideration of the plaintiffs' pending equal protection claim. View "Pennsylvania State Conference of NAACP Branches v. Northampton County Board of Elections" on Justia Law

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In this case, Chuck McKay appealed the dismissal of a complaint he filed seeking declaratory relief regarding the Republican Party primary election for a county commissioner position in Saline County, Nebraska in 2022. The district court had dismissed McKay's complaint on the grounds that the exclusive remedy for his claims was an election contest under Nebraska law.McKay alleged that Anita Bartels, the county clerk, had unlawfully altered the boundary of the district in which he was a candidate, which affected the outcome of the election. According to McKay, when votes from the area that Bartels added to the district were disregarded, he would have won the election. Furthermore, McKay contended that Bartels did not meet residency requirements to serve as county clerk, rendering her actions null and void.Despite McKay's assertions that he was not contesting the election, the Nebraska Supreme Court concluded that his complaint effectively sought to do so. The court noted that the election contest statutes were generally the exclusive means for challenging election results. McKay had failed to provide any reasons why an election contest did not provide him with a full, adequate, and serviceable remedy for his claim. Consequently, the court affirmed the dismissal of McKay's complaint on the grounds that it failed to state a claim entitling him to declaratory or equitable relief. View "McKay v. Bartels" on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute regarding the office of constable for the District 59 election precinct in Jefferson County, Alabama. Frederick Burkes, Sr. won the 2020 Democratic party primary for the office and was declared and certified as the winner. Prior to assuming office, he filed a bond as required by state law. However, James Franklin contended that the bond was not timely filed as it was not filed within 40 days of the declaration of Burkes's election. Consequently, Jefferson Probate Judge James Naftel declared the office of constable for District 59 vacant, leading to Governor Kay Ivey appointing Franklin to the office.Burkes initiated a quo warranto action against Franklin, challenging his appointment. The trial court ruled in favor of Franklin, a decision that was appealed by Burkes. The Supreme Court of Alabama affirmed the trial court's decision. The Court found that Burkes had indeed filed his official bond on time, as per § 11-2-6 of the Alabama Code. However, Burkes's argument before the trial court was framed around a perceived conflict between § 36-5-2 and § 36-23-4 of the Alabama Code, not § 11-2-6. As a result, the Supreme Court of Alabama affirmed the trial court's decision because Burkes had not presented an argument concerning § 11-2-6 to the trial court. View "State of Alabama ex rel. Burkes v. Franklin" on Justia Law