Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Education Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court enjoining Education Freedom PAC (EFP) from circulating an initiative petition for signatures and enjoining the Secretary of State from including the initiative on the ballot, holding that the initiative fell short of meeting constitutional requirements.The initiative at issue would amend the Nevada Constitution to require the legislature to establish education freedom accounts for parents to use to pay for their child's education if that child is educated outside of the uniform system of common schools. Respondents filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief challenging the petition. The district court concluded that the initiative was invalid for three reasons. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) properly denied EFP's request to dismiss the complaint; and (2) properly enjoined the EFP initiative's circulation and placement on the ballot because the initiative failed to comply with constitutional requirements. View "Education Freedom PAC v. Reid" on Justia Law

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The Rockland County, New York school district is 65.7% white, 19.1% black, 10.7% Latino, and 3.3% Asian. In 2017-2018, 8,843 students attended public schools, while 29,279 students attended private schools, primarily Jewish yeshivas; 92% of public school students are black or Latino, while 98% of private-school students are white. School board candidates run for a specific seat in at-large elections; all eligible district voters vote in each race. Influential members of the private-school community have an informal slating process by which Board candidates are selected and promoted. An Orthodox Rabbi controls a slating organization that has secured victory for the white community’s preferred candidate in each contested election. Although the Organization has slated some successful minority candidates, minority voters did not prefer these candidates. Only those with connections to the Organization have been selected. When vetted, candidates were not asked about their policy views.The Second Circuit affirmed that the election system resulted in dilution of black and Latino votes, violating the Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. 10301. The Act does not require a finding that racial motivations caused election results. The court properly relied on expert findings, that used data derived through Bayesian Improved Surname Geocoding rather than the traditional Citizen Voting Age Population data. The totality of the circumstances supports a finding of impermissible vote dilution, given the near-perfect correlation between race and school-type; the scant evidence that policy preferences caused election results; the blatant neglect of minority needs; the lack of minority-preferred election success; the white-dominated slating organization; and the District's bad faith throughout the litigation. View "Clerveaux v. East Ramapo Central School District" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the district court entering an injunction directing Defendants to place on the ballot a measure asking voters whether they approved the demolition of Hoover Elementary School and the use of the proceeds for school district purposes, holding that the district court erred in granting Plaintiffs injunctive relief.The Iowa City Community School District refused to authorize the placement of the ballot issue at an election after a petition bearing more than 2000 signatures had been timely filed with the Board. When the Board refused to direct the county auditor to place the matter on the ballot for the upcoming election, Plaintiffs sought injunctive relief and damages against the school district court individual board members. The district court entered an injunction and directed the district court to place the matter on the next general election ballot. The district court then granted Defendants summary judgment on Plaintiffs' claims for damages. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that Defendants were entitled to summary judgment on all claims because the school district was under no legal obligation to require the county auditor to place the matter on the ballot. View "Young v. Iowa City Community School District" on Justia Law

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The Mayor of Chicago appoints the city’s Board of Education, 105 ILCS 5/34-3. Until 1995, the Mayor needed the consent of the City Council; now the Mayor acts independently. Plaintiffs claimed that the system violated the Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. 10301 (section 2). School boards elsewhere in Illinois are elected; plaintiffs say that failure to elect the school board in Chicago has a disproportionate effect on minority voters. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. Section 2(a) covers any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting or standard” that results in an abridgment of the right to vote; it does not guarantee that any given public office be filled by election rather than appointment, a civil service system, or some other means. Whether having an appointed board is “good government” or good for pupils is irrelevant to the Act. While more minority citizens live in Chicago than in other Illinois cities and do not vote for school board members, neither does anyone else. Every member of the electorate is treated identically, which is what section 2 requires. View "Quinn v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs in this case were residents of Red Clay who were unable to access the polls during a special election held by Red Clay Consolidated School District in February 2015. In the election, residents were asked to approve an increase in the school-related property taxes paid by owners of non-exempt real estate located within the district. Red Clay prevailed in the special election, but Plaintiffs claimed electoral misconduct. The Court of Chancery declared that Red Clay violated the Elections Clause of the Delaware Constitution but did not award any greater relief because the violations did not warrant invalidating the special election. The court reached this result through a balancing of factors, including the dysfunction in Delaware’s system for funding public schools, which led to Red Clay facing a significant deficit without a favorable vote. View "Young v. Red Clay Consolidated School District" on Justia Law

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Petitioners who pursue the recall of a local school board member under the Recall Act are entitled to the procedural protections of the New Mexico statute prohibiting strategic litigation against public participation (Anti-SLAPP statute). This dispute arose out of a malicious abuse of process claim made by Taos school board member Arsenio Cordova (Cordova) against eighteen members of an unincorporated citizens’ association (collectively, Petitioners) following their efforts to remove Cordova from office under the Local School Board Member Recall Act (Recall Act). The New Mexico Supreme Court concluded that petitioners were entitled to immunity under the Noerr-Pennington doctrine when they exercise their right to petition unless the petitioners: (1) lacked sufficient factual or legal support; and (2) had a subjective illegitimate motive for exercising their right to petition. View "Cordova v. Cline" on Justia Law

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In July 2015, the Delaware Joint Vocational School District Board of Education passed a resolution to submit a renewal levy to voters at the general election. On November 20, 2015, the Delaware County Board of Elections purported to certify the election result. The county auditor then delivered the abstract of tax rates to the tax commissioner to apply the reduction factors and calculate the tax rate for the school district. When the county auditor discovered that the Board of Elections had not certified the results of the levy using Form 5-U, however, the tax commissioner excluded the levy on the list of tax rates certified for collection to the county auditors in counties with territory in the school district, and the levy was not included on the property tax bills sent to property owners for the first half of tax year 2016. The school board brought this action in mandamus to compel the tax commissioner to apply the reduction factors and calculate the tax rates for the levy. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding that because no proper certification of the multicounty election was presented to the tax commissioner demonstrating that the tax was authorized to be levied, the commissioner did not have a clear legal duty to apply reduction factors and calculate tax rates for this levy. View "State ex rel. Delaware Joint Vocational School District Board of Education v. Testa" on Justia Law

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Initiative Petition No. 403 sought to amend the Oklahoma Constitution by adding a new Article 13-C. The proposed article would create the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund, designed to provide for the improvement of public education in Oklahoma through an additional one-cent sales and use tax. Funds generated by the one-cent tax would be distributed to public school districts, higher education institutions, career and technology centers, and early childhood education providers for certain educational purposes outlined in the proposed article. Additionally, a percentage of the funds would be used to provide a $5,000.00 pay raise to all public school teachers. Opponents challenged the initiative, arguing it violated the one general subject rule of Art. 24, sec. 1 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that Initiative Petition No. 403 did not violate the one general subject rule and was legally sufficient for submission to the people of Oklahoma. View "IN RE INITIATIVE PETITION NO. 403 STATE QUESTION NO. 779" on Justia Law

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Appellants, two Minnesota-based, grassroots advocacy organizations and their leaders, filed suit claiming that a provision of the Minnesota Fair Campaign Practices Act (FCPA), Minn. Stat. 211B.01 et seq., inhibits appellants' ability to speak freely against school-funding ballot initiatives and, thereby, violates their First Amendment rights. The court rejected the county attorney's renewed challenge to standing; because the speech at issue occupies the core of the protection afforded by the First Amendment, the court applied strict scrutiny to legislation attempting to regulate it; the county attorneys failed to demonstrate that the interests advanced in support of section 211B.06 - preserving fair and honest elections and preventing fraud on the electorate - is narrowly tailored to meet a compelling government interest where the section is both overbroad and underinclusive and is not the least restrictive means of achieving any stated goal; and the attorney general is immune to suit. Accordingly, the court dismissed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "281 Care Committee, et al. v. Arneson, et al." on Justia Law

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In 2000, Arizona voters approved a referendum that statutorily directed the Legislature to annually increase the base level of the revenue control limit for K-12 public school funding. The measure was codified as Ariz. Rev. Stat. 15-901.01. For several years, the Legislature adjusted the base level and transportation support level annually for inflation, but the 2010-11 budget (HB 2008) included an adjusted to the transportation support level only. Subsequent budgets likewise did not include base level adjustments. Several school districts and other parties sued the State Treasurer and State, alleging that HB 2008 amended or repealed a voter-approved law in violation of the Voter Protection Act (VPA). The superior court dismissed the complaint for failing to state a claim, ruling that section 15-901.01 was not mandatory and that voters "cannot require the legislature to enact a law that provides for the appropriation" prescribed in the statute. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that no constitutional impediment existed to the electorate's directive, and legislative adjustments to section 15-901.01's funding scheme are limited by the VPA. View "Cave Creek Unified Sch. Dist. v. Ducey" on Justia Law