Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Education Law
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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

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In the case brought before the Supreme Court of the State of Oregon, two petitioners, Hugh Ady and Reed Scott-Schwalbach, challenged the Attorney General's certified ballot title for Initiative Petition 30 (2024) (IP 30). IP 30 proposed to establish a program providing state funding to families incurring "qualified expenses" for educating their children outside of the public school system. The funding would have been provided through a new "Education Savings Account Program" and would have been available to households having an adjusted gross income of $125,000 or less.The petitioners raised several objections to the ballot title, which the court mostly rejected. However, the court agreed with petitioner Scott-Schwalbach that the "yes" result statement and the summary were inaccurate in stating that IP 30 "allows additional virtual charter programs." The court clarified that state law doesn't cap virtual charter programs, but rather enrollment in those programs. IP 30 proposed to increase the enrollment cap, not the number of programs. As such, the court referred the "yes" result statement and the summary back to the Attorney General for correction. View "Ady v. Rosenblum" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Jacob Bennett was not barred from serving on the Harford County Council because of his employment as a schoolteacher by the Harford County Board of Education, thus reversing the contrary order and declaratory judgment of the circuit court.After Bennett was elected to the Council in the November 2022 general election a dispute arose between Bennett and Harford County concerning whether he was precluded from serving simultaneously as a member of the Council and as an employee of the Board by either section 207 of the Harford County Charter or the common law doctrine of incompatible positions. The circuit court ruled in favor of the County on the basis that the Board should be treated as a County for purposes of Charter 207. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that neither Charter 207 nor the doctrine of incompatible positions barred Bennett from simultaneously serving as a member of the Council and an employee of the Board. View "Bennett v. Harford County" on Justia Law

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In 2016, San Francisco voters amended their city charter to authorize voting in local school board elections by noncitizen parents and guardians of school-age children. In 2018, the Board of Supervisors enacted an ordinance implementing Proposition N, including provisions requiring the City’s Department of Elections to develop a noncitizen voter registration form for school board elections. In 2022, after multiple school board elections in which noncitizens voted, this lawsuit was brought alleging the charter amendment violated the California Constitution. The trial court granted found the effective ordinance void and unenforceableThe court of appeal reversed and awarded the city costs. Neither the plain language of the Constitution nor its history prohibits legislation expanding the electorate to noncitizens. The relevant constitutional provisions authorizing home rule permit charter cities to implement such an expansion in local school board elections. This authority is consistent with the principles underlying home rule and permits the voters of each charter city to determine whether it is good policy for their city or not. View "Lacy v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying relief in this declaratory judgment action to force a public referendum on the financing of a school district's proposed athletic stadium, holding that Plaintiffs failed to show prejudice to obtain judicial relief for a technical violation in their petition.Plaintiff-citizens collected signatures to force the public referendum at issue, but the school board determined that the number of signatures were insufficient to force a referendum. The school district, therefore, declined to accept the petition or proceed with the referendum. Plaintiff then brought this declaratory judgment action to force the referendum. The trial court granted summary judgment denying relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiffs' petition was facially invalid as lacking the requisite number of signatures; (2) the district court breached a directory duty under Iowa Code 277.7 to return the rejected petition, but Plaintiffs failed to show prejudice; and (3) therefore, Plaintiffs' due process claims failed, and summary judgment was proper. View "Save Our Stadiums v. Des Moines Independent Community School District" on Justia 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