Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
by
The Fund appealed the dismissal of its challenge to Indiana’s prohibition on corporate contributions to political action committees (PACs) for independent expenditures. Following oral argument, the Fund filed a “Motion Requesting Judicial Notice,” explaining that Morales has succeeded Sullivan as Indiana’s Secretary of State and has replaced Sullivan as a party to the case. Under Fed.R.App.P. 43(c)(2) the substitution happens automatically without any motion. The Fund sought judicial notice of the fact that there is no record evidence that Morales has taken any steps to disavow enforcement of Indiana’s Election Code prohibition on corporate contributions to PACs for purposes of independent expenditures.The Seventh Circuit denied the motion as “unnecessary” and “improper.” Nothing about Morales becoming Secretary of State calls jurisdiction into question. Nor does it materially alter anything about the issues. The Fund’s motion seeks one of two things, neither of which would be an appropriate use of judicial notice. It may attempt to define the likelihood that Secretary Morales will enforce the Election Code or it might attempt to highlight what it sees as a gap in the evidentiary record—that Secretary Morales has yet to make a statement regarding state regulation of independent-expenditure PACs. Judicial notice is only permitted for adjudicative facts “not subject to reasonable dispute.” View "Indiana Right to Life Victory Fund v. Morales" on Justia Law

by
In 2018, City of Montpelier voters approved a proposed amendment to the city’s charter that would allow noncitizens to vote in its local elections. The Legislature authorized the amendment in 2021, overriding the Governor’s veto. Plaintiffs included two Montpelier residents who were United States citizens and registered to vote in Montpelier, eight Vermont voters who were United States citizens and resided in other localities in the state, the Vermont Republican Party, and the Republican National Committee. They filed a complaint in the civil division against the City and the City Clerk in his official capacity, seeking a declaratory judgment that Montpelier’s new noncitizen voting charter amendment violated Chapter II, § 42 of the Vermont Constitution, and an injunction to prevent defendants from registering noncitizens to vote in Montpelier. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded that the complaint alleged facts to establish standing at the pleadings stage for plaintiffs to bring their facial challenge to the statute. However, the Supreme Court concluded that the statute allowing noncitizens to vote in local Montpelier elections did not violate Chapter II, § 42 because that constitutional provision did not apply to local elections. The Court accordingly affirmed the trial court’s grant of the City’s motion to dismiss. View "Ferry, et al. v. City of Montpelier" on Justia Law

by
Dakotans for Health (“DFH”), a South Dakota ballot question committee, sought to place a constitutional amendment measure on South Dakota’s 2022 general election ballot. To get on the ballot, DFH would need to submit nearly 34,000 valid signatures to the South Dakota Secretary of State. When DFH filed its complaint, it employed a paid petition circulator, Pam Cole, to help it obtain these signatures. The district court preliminarily enjoined South Dakota officials from enforcing these requirements. On appeal, the Appellants argued DFH does not have standing to challenge SB 180. Alternatively, they argue the preliminary injunction was unwarranted and improper and thus the district court abused its discretion by entering it.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court concluded DFH is likely to succeed in showing SB 180 is facially invalid as overbroad in that it violates the First Amendment in a substantial number of its applications. It discriminates against paid circulators for reasons unrelated to legitimate state interests, reduces the pool of circulators available to DFH, and restricts the speech of DFH by sweeping too broadly in its requirements. Put another way, SB 180 is not narrowly tailored to serve South Dakota’s important interests.   Further, the court concluded that the balance of harms and the public interest also favor DFH. While South Dakota has important interests in protecting the integrity of the ballot initiative process, it has no interest in enforcing overbroad restrictions that likely violate the Constitution. Thus, the court found that DFH has satisfied the requirements for issuance of a preliminary injunction and that the district court did not abuse its discretion. View "Dakotans for Health v. Kristi Noem" on Justia Law

by
Petitioners were the proponents of Oklahoma Initiative Petition No. 434, State Question No. 820 ("SQ820"), which would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for recreational use. Petitioners asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to assume original jurisdiction and to issue a writ of mandamus that would require Respondents to print SQ820 on the ballot for the November 8, 2022 general election. Before SQ820 could be placed on the ballot, it would still need to clear several other statutorily imposed hurdles set forth in the general provisions of title 34 of the Oklahoma Statutes. Chiefly, SQ820 would still need to survive any citizen protests challenging the sufficiency of the signatures or the rewritten ballot title. Because it was not clear whether any protests would be filed or, if some were filed, whether the protests could be disposed of prior to the deadlines for printing ballots and for mailing ballots to absentee voters, the Supreme Court decided on August 29th to assume original jurisdiction and hold this matter in abeyance so that the process could play out a little further. The Secretary of State took actions on August 31st that commenced a 10-business-day period to file protests. Prior to the September 15th deadline, citizens filed four protests. The Supreme Court denied two of the protests on September 16th. Once it became clear SQ820 could not be printed on ballots in time to comply with the deadline for mailing ballots to absentee voters that set forth in 26 O.S.2021, § 14-118(A) and 52 U.S.C. § 20302(a)(8)(A), the Supreme Court denied the requested writ of mandamus. View "Nichols v. Ziriax" on Justia Law

by
Nicholas Holliday appealed a circuit court decision, arguing the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to resolve an election contest brought by Robert Devaull concerning the 2020 Democratic Primary Runoff Election for Alderman, Ward I, in Aberdeen. Holliday relied on Devaull’s failure to comply with the statutory requirements of Mississippi Code Section 23-15-927. Additionally, Holliday argued that the trial court committed manifest error by determining that a special election was warranted. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined the trial court erred when it held that Devaull could amend his petition beyond the ten day deadline. Devaull failed to comply with the statutory requirement of filing a sworn copy of the complaint made to the Committee before the ten day deadline. The requirement of filing a sworn copy of the complaint was jurisdictional; therefore, the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction and without authority to order a new election. Judgment was reversed and rendered in favor of Holliday. View "In Re: Democratic Ward 1 Run-Off Election for the City of Aberdeen, Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
Adrian Perkins, the then-current mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana, sought reelection to that office. On July 22, 2022, Perkins signed and filed a notice of candidacy form, as required by La. R.S. 18:461 to become a candidate in a primary election. The requirements for the notice of candidacy set forth in La. R.S. 18:463 include a requirement that the candidate certify nine items. It was undisputed Perkins signed the form certifying all required statements and that his certification as to Item 8 on the notice of candidacy form, was incorrect. Perkins has two residences–Stratmore Circle and Marshall Street– both within the city of Shreveport. Although Perkins was registered to vote at the Stratmore Circle address at the time of his qualification, it was undisputed he maintained a homestead exemption at the Marshall Street residence. The two residences were in different voting precincts. Francis Deal, a qualified elector, filed a “Petition in Objection to Candidacy” asserting Perkins’ false certification on the notice of candidacy form disqualified him from being a candidate for mayor pursuant to La. R.S. 18:492. Deal also asserted that pursuant to La. R.S. 18:101(B), Perkins was required to be registered to vote in the precinct where he claimed his homestead exemption, and his failure to do so caused him to be an unqualified elector and candidate. After considering the evidence, the district court disqualified Perkins as a candidate in the primary election for the office of the Mayor of the city of Shreveport. The Louisiana Supreme Court reversed, holding that only those false certifications specifically listed in La. R.S. 18:492(A)(5) through (7) constituted grounds for objecting to a candidate. Because the certification at issue in this case was not specifically listed in La. R.S. 18:492, it could not serve as a basis to disqualify the candidate here. View "Deal v. Perkins et al." on Justia Law

by
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court considered a question of whether the General Assembly overstepped its constitutional authority by enacting legislation that allowed for universal mail-in voting. Among other things, "Act 77" effected major amendments to the Pennsylvania Election Code, including universal, state-wide mail-in voting. On November 21, 2020, eight petitioners – including a Republican congressman and Republican candidates for the United States House of Representatives and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives – filed a petition for review with the Commonwealth Court seeking to halt the certification of the 2020 General Election, and including a facial challenge to the portions of Act 77 that established universal mail-in voting. The Supreme Court exercised extraordinary jurisdiction over the matter, and found a “complete failure to act with due diligence in commencing [the] facial constitutional challenge, which was ascertainable upon Act 77’s enactment[,]” as the petitioners waited until the ballots from the General Election were in the process of being tallied, and the results were becoming apparent, to raise their claim. Thus, the Court found the claim barred by the doctrine of laches. The Court found no restriction in the Pennsylvania Constitution on the General Assembly's ability to create universal mail-in voting. View "McLinko v. Penna. Dept. of State, et al." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs sued the City of Virginia Beach and several local officials, claiming that the City’s exclusive use of at-large voting to elect members of its City Council diluted the votes of minority voters in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Before the district court ruled on that claim, however, Virginia’s General Assembly passed a law eliminating at-large voting for most of the seats on the City Council. Even so, the district court held, that the case was not moot, the City’s old all-at-large electoral system violated Section 2, and the plaintiffs were entitled to an injunction remedying that violation going forward.   The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court’s decision concluding that the district court erred in reaching the merits. The General Assembly’s action left Plaintiffs challenging – and the district court assessing – an electoral system that no longer governs elections in Virginia Beach. The court explained that HB 2198 prevented the City from conducting any future City Council elections under the electoral system that Plaintiffs challenged, and other aspects of state and local law precluded the City from returning unilaterally to its old ways. Under those circumstances, Plaintiffs’ challenge is moot, and the district court lacked jurisdiction to consider its merits.     However, because Plaintiffs may have residual claims against the City’s new method for electing its Council, the district court may consider on remand whether Plaintiffs should be granted leave to amend their complaint, or develop the record more fully, to bring any new challenges as part of this proceeding. View "Latasha Holloway v. City of Virginia Beach" on Justia Law

by
Pro se Plaintiff sought to pursue a civil action in the Eastern District of Virginia against several Commonwealth officials, alleging that the Old Dominion’s 2021 House of Delegates election contravened the federal and state constitutions. More specifically, Plaintiff alleged that Virginia was constitutionally required to use 2020 U.S. Census data to draw the legislative districts for the 2021 House of Delegates election. On October 12, 2021, the district court dismissed Plaintiff’s claims against the Governor of Virginia and the State Board of Elections on grounds of Eleventh Amendment immunity.   On remand, the three-judge district court dismissed the entirety of Plaintiff’s complaint, ruling that he lacks Article III standing to sue. The court later reviewed the Standing to Sue Ruling, and found that the court possesses jurisdiction to review the Standing to Sue Ruling. The court then rendered an opinion to resolve both the Plaintiff’s Appeal and the Commonwealth’s Appeal.   The Fourth Circuit held that the three-judge district court properly ruled that Plaintiff does not possess the Article III standing to sue that is required to pursue this civil action. In making that determination, the court adopted the well-crafted and reasoned analysis of the Standing to Sue Ruling. Plaintiff cannot satisfy Article III’s injury in fact requirement, either as a voter or as a candidate for public office. However, the court modified the judgment of the three-judge district court to reflect that its dismissal of Plaintiff’s civil action is without prejudice. The court further, dismissed the Commonwealth’s Appeal as moot. View "Paul Goldman v. Robert Brink" on Justia Law

by
Frederick Burkes, Sr. appealed a circuit court judgment entered in favor of James Franklin in an action initiated by Burkes. In March 2020, Burkes defeated Franklin, the incumbent, in a primary election for the office of constable for District 59 in Jefferson County, Alabama. Burkes was unopposed in the general election and was declared and certified as the winner of the election on Friday, November 13, 2020. Thereafter, Franklin sent a letter to the Jefferson Probate Court informing the probate court that Burkes had not filed an official bond within 40 days of the declaration of Burkes's election to the office of constable. The probate court notified the Governor that the bond had not been posted, making the office vacated by operation of law. The Governor thereafter appointed Franklin to the office of constable for District 59. On April 22, 2021, Burkes, acting pro se, initiated this action, which he identified as a quo warranto action, with the circuit court. Burkes alleged in his complaint that he had been sworn into the office of constable on January 4, 2021, and that he had filed an official bond on December 31, 2020, which he contended was timely pursuant to § 36-23- 4, Ala. Code 1975. Also acting pro se, Franklin filed an "answer" in which he also moved for a "summary judgment." In summary, Franklin asserted that Burkes had vacated the office of constable by failing to comply with the pertinent statutory procedure concerning the payment of official bonds. Franklin requested, among other things, that Burkes be ordered to cease and desist all activities concerning the office of constable and that Burkes's quo warranto action be "dismissed with prejudice." The Alabama Supreme Court found that Burkes's failure to give the circuit court security for the costs of this action deprived the circuit court of subject-matter jurisdiction over the action. Because the circuit court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over this action, its judgment was void. Because a void judgment will not support an appeal, this appeal was dismissed. View "Burkes v. Franklin" on Justia Law