Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Election Law
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New Jersey permits candidates running in primary elections to include beside their name a slogan of up to six words to help distinguish them from others on the ballot but requires that candidates obtain consent from individuals or incorporated associations before naming them in their slogans. Candidates challenged this requirement after their desired slogans were rejected for failure to obtain consent. They argued that ballot slogans are, in effect, part of the campaign and that the consent requirement should be subject to traditional First Amendment scrutiny.The district court disagreed, holding that, though the ballot slogans had an expressive function, the consent requirement regulates the mechanics of the electoral process. The court applied the Anderson-Burdick test. The Third Circuit affirmed. The line separating core political speech from the mechanics of the electoral process “has proven difficult to ascertain.“ The court surveyed the election laws to which the Supreme Court and appellate courts have applied the Anderson-Burdick test, as opposed to a traditional First Amendment analysis, and derived criteria to help distinguish which test is applicable. New Jersey’s consent requirement is subject to Anderson-Burdick’s balancing test; because New Jersey’s interests in ensuring election integrity and preventing voter confusion outweigh the minimal burden imposed on candidates’ speech, the requirement passes that test. View "Mazo v. New Jersey Secretary of State" 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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In 2019, Tennessee imposed new requirements for conducting voter-registration activities. The law required individuals to register with the state; complete state-administered “training”; file a “sworn statement” agreeing to obey Tennessee’s voter-registration laws; and return “completed” voter-registration forms within 10 days. Plaintiffs argued that the law significantly burdened their rights of speech and association, in violation of the First Amendment, and was unconstitutionally vague. The court stated that the defendants had offered “little, if any, evidence” in support of the Act’s requirements, “despite having had an opportunity” and held that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail on the merits, further noting “the vagueness about the scope and nature" of the Act. The court “ordered” the defendants “not to take any steps to implement” or otherwise enforce the challenged provisions. The defendants did not appeal. Seven months later, the state repealed the provisions.The district court approved a stipulation to dismiss the case without prejudice. Plaintiffs were awarded attorneys’ fees under 42 U.S.C. 1988, as the “prevailing party.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed. A preliminary injunction that, as a practical matter, concludes the litigation in the plaintiffs’ favor and that is not challenged on appeal, is, in this case, enduring enough to support prevailing-party status under section 1988. View "Tennessee State Conference of the NAACP v. Hargett" on Justia Law

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Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, appeals the district court’s denial of her Motion for Preliminary Injunctive Relief. In her motion, Rep. Greene asked the district court to enjoin the state court’s application of O.C.G.A. Section 21-2-5 (“Challenge Statute”) against her to prevent her from being disqualified as a candidate for Congress under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.   The Eleventh Circuit remanded the case to the district court with instructions to dismiss the case as moot. The court explained that Rep. Greene sought to enjoin the application of the Challenge Statute against her in the state proceedings to prevent her from being disqualified as a candidate for Congress under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment. However, the state proceedings under the Challenge Statute have concluded, and Rep. Greene has prevailed at each stage: the ALJ ruled in Rep. Greene’s favor, Secretary Raffensperger adopted the ALJ’s conclusions, the Superior Court of Fulton County affirmed the Secretary’s decision, and the Supreme Court of Georgia denied the Challengers’ application for discretionary review. Ultimately, Rep. Greene was not disqualified from being a candidate for Congress and is presently on the ballot for the upcoming election. Accordingly, the court no longer has the ability to accord Rep. Greene meaningful relief. Therefore the court held that the case is moot. View "Marjorie Taylor Greene v. Secretary of State for the State of Georgia, et al" on Justia Law

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Nicholas Holliday appealed a circuit court decision, arguing the 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, Mississippi. 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. Because it found the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case, the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the trial court was without authority to order a new election. Judgment was reversed and entered in favor of Holliday. View "In Re: Democratic Ward 1 Run-Off Election for the City of Aberdeen, Mississippi" on Justia Law

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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

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The Supreme Court granted a petition sought by Petitioner seeking an order authorizing Petitioner to send notices about errors on the for the Murray County ballot for the November 8, 2022 general election to all mail ballot voters and to all voters who had already requested an absentee ballot, holding that Petitioner was entitled to relief.The petition asserted that the ballot at issue incorrectly identified the district number for the Minnesota legislative officers as Senate District 22 and House District 22A. Petitioner did not seek to correct the errors on the ballot but sought to send notices regarding the errors and the authority to post the same notice in all Murray County polling places. The Supreme Court granted the petition, holding that Petitioner proposed an appropriate plan to remedy the ballot errors. View "In re Murray County Ballot" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied a writ of mandamus compelling Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose to allow Relator to appoint election observers to inspect the counting of votes and compelling LaRose to provide election observers with copies of all software, hardware, and source codes installed on any automatic vote-tabulating machine, holding that Relator was not entitled to the writ.Relator, an independent candidate for Ohio Secretary of State on the November 8, 2022 general-election ballot, brought this expedited election case (1) asserting that Ohio Rev. Code 3505.21, which governs the appointment of election observers, violates constitutional equal protection guarantees because it restricts certified independent candidates' ability to appoint election observers; and (2) asking that tabulating-machine software be "open or unlocked" so that observers "may inspect [the machines] to the source code level[.]" The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that there was no basis for a writ of mandamus to issue. View "State ex rel. Maras v. LaRose" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted Petitioner's petition for a supervisory writ claiming that petitions for leave to appeal filed by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Rise, Inc. in Kormanik v. Wisconsin Elections Commission were pending in the incorrect appellate district, holding that the appellate order transferring venue from District II to District IV must be vacated.Petitioner brought an action against the Wisconsin Elections Committee (WEC), alleging that two documents provided by the WEC to municipal clerks misinterpreted certain election statutes as permitting a clerk to "spoil" an absence ballot at an elector's request. The DNC and Rise subsequently intervened in the matter. The circuit court required the WEC to withdraw the challenged documents. The DNC and Rise filed separate petitions for leave to appeal. After the court of appeals concluded that venue was appropriate in District IV Petitioner filed a petition for a supervisory writ. The Supreme Court granted the writ, holding the circuit court judge violated his plain duty to venue the appeal in the correct district by ordering transfer of appellate venue from District II to District IV. View "Kormanik v. Brash" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court ordered that Petitioners shall correct the ballot for the November 8, 2022 general election because the general election ballot used by voters in Roseau County and Kittson County omitted information required by Minnesota law.Roseau and Kittson Counties filed petitions under Minn. Stat. 204B.44(a) to correct errors on the November 8, 2022 general election ballot, stating the the ballots in each county failed to include the political party affiliation for federal and state candidates and failed to include the word "incumbent" next to names of currently-serving judicial candidates. The Supreme Court ordered that the counties shall correct the ballot for the November 8, 2022 general election and that Petitioners shall resume delivery of ballots to voters after they receive corrected ballots from their vendors. View "In re Roseau County Ballot for the November 8, 2022 General Election" on Justia Law