Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
by
The case revolves around the petitioner, Ryan Binkley, who sought to have his name included on the Republican Party of Minnesota's ballot for the 2024 presidential nomination primary. However, the Chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota did not include Binkley as a candidate when notifying the Minnesota Secretary of State, Steve Simon, of the candidates for its ballot. Consequently, Binkley and his campaign committee filed a petition with the court, arguing that the procedures established by Minnesota Statutes section 207A.13, subdivision 2(a), which allow a major political party to determine the candidates that will appear on its ballot for the presidential nomination primary, violate the Electors Clause of the United States Constitution.The case was brought before the Minnesota Supreme Court after the petitioners' claim was denied in the lower court. The petitioners argued that the Electors Clause prohibits state-based favoritism on ballots through the exclusion of qualified candidates. The Secretary of State, however, contended that the presidential nomination primary is not subject to the Electors Clause because Minnesota does not use the presidential nomination primary to appoint presidential electors.The Minnesota Supreme Court agreed with the Secretary of State, ruling that the presidential nomination primary is not part of the process that Minnesota uses to appoint presidential electors. Therefore, the statutes that govern the presidential nomination primary do not fall within the scope of the Electors Clause. The court concluded that the petitioners' claim that section 207A.13, subdivision 2(a) violates the Electors Clause fails as a matter of law. The petition was thus denied. View "J. Binkley for President 2024 vs. Simon" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court of Kansas reviewed a case involving the League of Women Voters of Kansas and other organizations against the Kansas Secretary of State and the Kansas Attorney General. The plaintiffs challenged three new Kansas election laws, alleging that they violated various provisions of the Kansas Constitution. The laws in question prohibited the false representation of an election official, prohibited election officials from counting advance ballots that did not have a signature or had a signature that an election official determined did not match the signature on file, and prohibited any person from collecting and returning more than 10 advance ballots for other voters.The case was initially heard in the Shawnee County District Court, which denied the plaintiffs' request for a temporary injunction against the false representation statute. The court also granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the claims against the signature verification requirement and the ballot collection restriction. The plaintiffs appealed these decisions, and the cases were consolidated.The Supreme Court of Kansas held that the plaintiffs had demonstrated a likelihood of prevailing on the merits of their claim that the false representation statute was constitutionally infirm. Therefore, the district court erred in denying their request for a temporary injunction. The court also held that the signature verification requirement was a valid effort by the Legislature to provide "proper proofs" of the right to be a qualified elector. However, the court remanded the case to the district court to consider whether the statute and its implementing regulations complied with the constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's grant of the defendants' motion to dismiss the claim that the ballot collection restriction was constitutionally infirm, because the restriction was not a new qualification on the right to be an elector, and because the proscribed activity—the delivery of ballots—was not political speech or expressive conduct. View "League of Women Voters of Kansas v. Schwab" on Justia Law

by
The case involves Conrad Reynolds, Arkansas Voter Integrity Initiative, Inc., and Restore Election Integrity Arkansas (collectively referred to as the petitioners) who filed an original action against John Thurston, in his official capacity as Secretary of State, and the State Board of Election Commissioners (collectively referred to as the respondents). The petitioners submitted two proposed measures to amend the Arkansas Constitution to the Attorney General for approval. One measure would have required elections to be conducted with paper ballots, and the other would have changed absentee-voting procedures. The Attorney General rejected both measures, citing various reasons such as conflicting provisions, unclear language, and redundancy. The petitioners resubmitted the measures to the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, and the State Board of Election Commissioners for certification, but the Secretary and the Board refused to examine the sufficiency of the ballot titles and popular names.The petitioners then filed this original-action complaint, asking the court to independently certify the legal sufficiency of the measures’ ballot titles and popular names and order them placed on the November 2024 ballot. They also asked the court to declare Arkansas Code Annotated section 7-9-107 and section 7-9-126(e) unconstitutional, arguing that these sections violate Article 5, section 1 of the Arkansas Constitution.The Supreme Court of Arkansas dismissed the complaint, ruling that it only has original jurisdiction over the sufficiency of petitions after the Secretary of State has made a sufficiency determination. The court found that the petitioners' request for a declaration that the statutes are unconstitutional falls outside its original jurisdiction. The court also noted that the petitioners could have filed a declaratory-judgment action in the circuit court to determine the constitutionality of the statutes. View "Reynolds v. Thurston" on Justia Law

by
In this case, two candidates for state legislative offices in the 2014 general election, Joe Markley and Rob Sampson, were fined by the State Elections Enforcement Commission for violating state statutes and regulations governing campaign financing. The candidates' campaign committees had received public funding grants and published communications that criticized the then-governor, who was running for reelection. The commission found that the candidates had violated the applicable statutes and regulations by using their campaign funds to pay for communications that criticized the governor while promoting their opposition to his policies.The candidates appealed to the trial court, arguing that the statutes and regulations violated their First Amendment rights by restricting their ability to speak about other, non-opposing candidates. The trial court upheld the commission's decision, agreeing that the candidates had violated the statutes and regulations and concluding that the restrictions did not infringe on the candidates' First Amendment rights.On appeal to the Supreme Court of Connecticut, the candidates argued that the commission's enforcement of the statutes and regulations violated their First Amendment rights. The court held that the commission's enforcement of the statutes and regulations imposed an unconstitutional condition in violation of the First Amendment. The court found that the commission's enforcement of the statutes and regulations penalized the candidates for mentioning the governor's name in a manner that was not the functional equivalent of speech squarely directed at his reelection campaign. The court reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded the case with direction to sustain the candidates' administrative appeal. View "Markley v. State Elections Enforcement Commission" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court of Arkansas reviewed four acts passed by the Arkansas General Assembly that were challenged by the League of Women Voters of Arkansas and other appellees. The acts in question were Acts 736, 973, 249, and 728 of 2021, which pertained to various aspects of the election process, including the verification of voter signatures on absentee ballots, the deadline for in-person delivery of absentee ballots, the requirement for voters to present valid photographic identification, and the prohibition of certain activities within 100 feet of a voting location. The circuit court had previously ruled these acts unconstitutional and permanently enjoined their enforcement.The circuit court's decision was based on the argument that the acts violated various provisions of the Arkansas Constitution and would burden lawful, eligible voters in the exercise of their right to vote. The appellants, including John Thurston in his official capacity as Secretary of State for the State of Arkansas and members of the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners, appealed this decision.The Supreme Court of Arkansas reversed the circuit court's decision, holding that the acts were not clearly incompatible with the sections of the Arkansas Constitution as alleged by the appellees. The court found that the acts were neutral on their face and did not contain any discriminatory classifications. The court also found that the acts did not add voter qualifications beyond those contained in the constitution, nor did they violate the free and equal election clause of the Arkansas Constitution. The court concluded that the circuit court erred in its application of strict scrutiny to the acts and in its finding that the acts violated various constitutional provisions. The court's decision resulted in the reversal and dismissal of the circuit court's ruling. View "THURSTON V. THE LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF ARKANSAS" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court of Arkansas reviewed a case involving four acts passed by the Arkansas General Assembly concerning the election process. The League of Women Voters of Arkansas and other appellees challenged the constitutionality of these acts, which were subsequently deemed unconstitutional by the circuit court and permanently enjoined. The appellants, including John Thurston in his official capacity as Secretary of State for the State of Arkansas and members of the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners, appealed this decision.The circuit court had ruled that the acts violated various provisions of the Arkansas Constitution and would burden lawful, eligible voters in the exercise of their right to vote. The appellants argued that the acts were enacted to protect the integrity of Arkansas elections by preventing fraudulent voting and to promote public confidence in election security. The circuit court applied strict scrutiny to the acts, finding that they failed to advance a compelling government interest or were not the least-restrictive infringement on the rights guaranteed by the Arkansas Constitution.The Supreme Court of Arkansas reversed the circuit court's decision, holding that the acts were not clearly incompatible with the sections of the Arkansas Constitution as alleged by the appellees. The court found that the acts were neutral on their face and did not contain any discriminatory classes, thus not invoking equal protection. The court also found that the acts did not violate the free and equal election clause, the voter qualifications clause, or the free speech and free assembly clauses of the Arkansas Constitution. The court concluded that the circuit court had erred in its application of strict scrutiny and in its findings that the acts violated these constitutional provisions. The case was dismissed. View "THURSTON V. THE LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF ARKANSAS" on Justia Law

by
The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the Legal Marijuana Now Party (LMNP) does not meet the requirements to be classified as a major political party under Minnesota law. The case was initiated by Ken Martin, the chair of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, who filed a petition arguing that the LMNP failed to comply with certain requirements for major political parties. Specifically, Martin claimed that the LMNP did not maintain a state central committee subject to the state convention’s control, as required by Minnesota law.The case was referred to a referee, who concluded that the LMNP had indeed failed to meet the requirements to be a major political party. The LMNP objected to these findings and argued that the relevant statutes unconstitutionally infringed upon its First Amendment associational rights.The Minnesota Supreme Court rejected the LMNP's arguments. It found that the LMNP's single committee, The Head Council, was not subject to the control of the LMNP’s state convention, as required by law. The court also rejected the LMNP’s constitutional challenge, finding that the party failed to demonstrate how the statutory requirements specifically burdened its associational rights. As a result, the court held that the LMNP does not meet all the statutory requirements to maintain its status as a major political party for the upcoming state primary and general elections. View "Martin vs. Simon" on Justia Law

by
A group of plaintiffs, including former members of the Montana Board of Regents, faculty organizations, student groups, and individual students, challenged the constitutionality of three bills passed by the Montana Legislature in 2021. The bills in question were HB 349, which regulated student organizations and speech on campus; HB 112, known as the "Save Women's Sports Act," which required sports teams to be designated as male, female, or coed based on biological sex; and § 2 of SB 319, which revised campaign finance laws and regulated the funding of certain student organizations. The plaintiffs argued that these bills infringed on the constitutional authority of the Board of Regents to supervise, coordinate, manage, and control the Montana University System.The District Court of the Eighteenth Judicial District, Gallatin County, granted the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, declaring HB 349, HB 112, and § 2 of SB 319 unconstitutional. The court also denied the plaintiffs' request for attorney fees. Both parties appealed this order.The Supreme Court of the State of Montana affirmed the District Court's decision. The court found that the plaintiffs had standing to bring their claims and that the challenged bills were unconstitutional. The court also upheld the District Court's denial of the plaintiffs' request for attorney fees, as the justices could not reach a majority opinion on this issue. View "Barrett v. State" on Justia Law

by
In 2021, the Colorado state legislature passed The Ballot Measure Fiscal Transparency Act, which required certain language to be included in state-imposed titles of citizen-initiated ballot measures. If the proposal contained a tax change affecting state or local revenues, the measure’s title had to incorporate a phrase stating the change’s impact on state and district funding priorities. In 2023, Advance Colorado proposed two tax reduction measures subject to the provisions of the Act. After Colorado’s Ballot Title Setting Board included the mandated transparency language in each initiative’s title, Advance Colorado filed suit challenging the Act as unconstitutionally compelling its political speech.The United States District Court for the District of Colorado denied Advance Colorado's request for a preliminary injunction, concluding that the titling process qualified as government speech and, therefore, Advance Colorado was not likely to succeed on the merits of its claims. The court considered the factors used for determining the boundary between government and private speech as outlined in Shurtleff v. City of Bos., 596 U.S. 243, 252 (2022). It concluded that the history of the expression, the public’s likely perception as to who is speaking, and the extent to which the government has shaped the expression all indicated Colorado’s titling system was government speech not subject to a First Amendment compelled speech claim.The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision, agreeing that the Act’s requirements did not result in improperly compelled speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The court found that the Colorado initiative titling system squarely qualified as government speech and Advance Colorado had not otherwise shown its own speech was improperly compelled by the government speech. Therefore, it could not demonstrate a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of its claims. View "Advance Colorado v. Griswold" on Justia Law

by
The case revolves around an initiative petition proposed by Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom (NRF) to establish a constitutional right to reproductive freedom. The petition would grant every individual the right to make decisions regarding all matters related to pregnancy, including prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, birth control, vasectomy, tubal ligation, abortion, abortion care, management of a miscarriage, and infertility care. Respondents Donna Washington and Coalition for Parents and Children challenged the petition in district court, alleging that it failed to meet statutory and constitutional requirements and sought to prevent the Secretary of State from placing the initiative on the ballot. They argued that the initiative petition violated the single-subject requirement because it considered multiple medical procedures, instead of being limited to only pregnancy or abortion. The district court granted the injunction, finding the initiative petition invalid for three reasons: it does not contain a single subject, its description of effect is misleading, and it requires an expenditure of money without raising the necessary revenue.The Supreme Court of Nevada reversed the district court's decision. The court found that all the medical procedures considered in the initiative petition concern reproduction and are germane to each other and the initiative's single subject of establishing a right to reproductive freedom. The court also concluded that the description of effect was legally sufficient and the initiative petition does not require an expenditure of funds. Therefore, the court held that the district court erred in preventing the Secretary of State from placing the initiative petition on the ballot. View "Nevadans for Reprod. Freedom v. Washington" on Justia Law