Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court’s review centered on proposed Initiatives #67 (2021-2022), #115 (2021-2022) and #128 (2021-2022), and whether they violated the single-subject requirement of the Colorado Constitution. Each indicative included provisions that would allow food retailers already licensed to sell beer to also sell wine, and provisions that would authorize third-party delivery services to deliver all alcoholic beverages sold from licensed retailers to consumers at their homes. After review, the Supreme Court determined the Initiatives violated the single-subject requirement, and the Title Board lacked jurisdiction to set titles for them. Accordingly, the Board’s actions were reversed. View "Fine v. Ward" on Justia Law

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Starbuck filed a nominating petition seeking to be placed on the ballot for the Republican primary for Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District for the U.S. House of Representatives. The Tennessee Republican Party, through the Tennessee Republican Party State Executive Committee (TRP SEC), determined that Starbuck was not a bona fide Republican, and would not appear on the ballot. Starbuck sought declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that the defendants violated the Tennesse Open Meetings Act (TOMA), Tenn. Code 8-44-101-111, by determining in a non-public meeting that he is not a bona fide Republican.The trial court concluded that the defendants violated TOMA and ordered that Starbuck be restored to the ballot. The Tennessee Supreme Court assumed jurisdiction and vacated. Only the state primary boards, not the state executive committees, are required to comply with TOMA (Tenn. Code 2-13-108(a)(2)). Section 2-13-104 provides that “a party may require by rule that candidates for its nominations be bona fide members of the party.” Under section 2-5-204(b)(2), a party’s state executive committee makes the determination of whether a candidate is a bona fide member of the party. TRP SEC, by statute, was acting as a state executive committee, and not a state primary board, when it determined that Starbuck was not a bona fide Republican and was not required to comply with TOMA. View "Newsom v. Tennessee Republican Party" on Justia Law

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Two groups of petitioners challenged the ballot title that the Oregon Attorney General certified for Initiative Petition 41 (2022) (IP 41). IP 41 would add a new section 16 to Article IX of the Oregon Constitution, which would specify that a “public body may not assess a toll” on any part of an Oregon “highway” unless approved by the voters of nearby counties. After review, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded that petitioners identified two ways in which the ballot title failed to substantially comply with the statutory requirements. Accordingly, the Court referred the ballot title to the Attorney General for modification. View "Salsgiver/Iannarone v. Rosenblum" on Justia Law

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Arthur Gary, General Counsel of the Justice Management Division at the Department of Justice, sent a letter to the Census Bureau requesting the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. Then-Secretary of Commerce relied on the Gary Letter to direct the Census Bureau to include a citizenship question on the Census questionnaire.Shortly after the Department of Justice sent the Gary Letter, the Campaign Legal Center filed a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request with the Justice Department seeking documents that would explain how and why the agency came to request the citizenship question. The Department withheld more than 100 pages of responsive documents under FOIA Exemptions 5 and 6. The district court held that some of the Justice Department’s withholdings based on the deliberative process privilege were improper, and ordered the Department to produce those documents.   The D.C. Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment as to all drafts of the Gary Letter and most of the associated emails. The court remanded the withholding decision regarding the five emails identified above for further consideration. The court held that the Justice Department properly withheld non-final drafts of the letter and that most of the Department’s redactions of associated emails were lawful. The court reasoned that the process of drafting the Gary Letter to request the addition of a citizenship question in a way that protected the Department’s litigation and policy interests involved the exercise of policymaking discretion, and so the letter’s content itself was a relevant final decision for purposes of FOIA’s deliberative process privilege. View "Campaign Legal Center v. DOJ" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Theresa Norelli, Christine Fajardo, Matt Gerding, and Palana Hunt-Hawkins, filed a complaint against the New Hampshire Secretary of State to challenge the constitutionality of New Hampshire’s current congressional districts. Plaintiffs contended the districts were rendered unconstitutionally malapportioned due to population shifts reported by the United States Census Bureau’s 2020 census. This case presented two preliminary questions for the New Hampshire Supreme Court’s review: (1) whether the current statute establishing a district plan for New Hampshire’s two congressional districts violated Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution; and (2) if so, whether the Supreme Court had to establish a new district plan if the legislature failed to do so “according to federal constitutional requisites in a timely fashion after having had an adequate opportunity to do so.” The Supreme Court answered the first question in the affirmative. In answering the second question, it determined that, upon a demonstrated legislative impasse, the Supreme Court had to establish a new district plan and, in doing so, it would apply the “least change” approach. View "Norelli, et al. v. New Hampshire Sec'y of State" on Justia Law

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An Alaska citizen filed an application to recall a member of the Anchorage Assembly, alleging that the assembly member had committed misconduct in office by participating in an indoor gathering of more than 15 people in violation of an executive order. The municipal clerk rejected the application after concluding that the alleged conduct did not constitute misconduct in office. The superior court reversed the clerk’s denial of the application. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the superior court’s decision. View "Jones v. Biggs" on Justia Law

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Florida Senate Bill 90 ("SB 90") imposed certain restrictions on citing. Plaintiffs challenged several provisions of SB 90, claiming the provisions violated the prohibition against race discrimination under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Plaintiffs also alleged the provisions were vague or overbroad in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments and that the provisions compelled speech in violation of the First Amendment. The district court found that SB 90 restricted the right to vote and permanently enjoined certain provisions of SB 90. The court also imposed a preclearance requirement under which Florida needed to obtain the district court's approval before enacting or amending certain election laws. Florida sought a stay of the district court's order pending its appeal.The Eleventh Circuit granted Florida's request to stay the district court's order pending appeal. The court noted that changing election laws as an election nears can cause voter confusion. Thus, Federal district courts ordinarily should not enjoin state election laws in the period close to an election. Here, a statewide election was less than four months away. Thus, Florida has a compelling interest in preserving the integrity of its election process.Applying the reasoning from Purcell v. Gonzalez, 549 U.S. 1 (2006), the court found that the state has a reduced burden to obtain a stay and only needs to show that Plaintiff's position is not "entirely clearcut." Thus, the court granted Florida's request for a stay pending appeal. View "Harriet Tubman Freedom Fighters Corp, et al v. Florida Secretary of State, et al" on Justia Law

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Two sets of electors who were dissatisfied with the Attorney General’s ballot title for Initiative Petition 34 (2022) (IP 34) petitioned the Oregon Supreme Court for review. IP 34 was directed at changing Oregon’s process for reapportioning legislative and congressional districts after each decennial census. Both petitions argued the ballot title did not substantially comply with the requirements of ORS 250.035. The Oregon Supreme Court agreed with some of the arguments raised in the petitions and, therefore, referred the ballot title to the Attorney General for modification. View "Mason/Turrill v. Rosenblum" on Justia Law

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C Davis sought to recall Washington Governor Jay Inslee. Davis filed five recall charges alleging that Governor Inslee violated the separation of powers, infringed on a number of constitutional rights, and improperly exercised emergency powers when issuing proclamations in response to the COVID -19 pandemic. In order to be placed on the ballot, a recall charge must be legally and factually sufficient to demonstrate an elected official’s malfeasance, misfeasance, or violation of the oath of office. The Washington Supreme Court held that the charges put forth by Davis were not legally or factually sufficient. View "In re Recall of Inslee" on Justia Law

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This action stemmed from the San Bernardino County registrar of voters (ROV) initially miscalculating the number of signatures needed in support of plaintiffs and real parties in interest’s (RPI) initiative petition to repeal a special tax associated with a fire protection zone. The ROV told RPI the incorrect number, resulting in RPI incurring unnecessary costs in obtaining far more signatures than were required. Defendants and Petitioners County of San Bernadino and its ROV, Bob Page, (collectively, the County) petitioned for a writ of mandate to direct the respondent trial court to vacate its order overruling the County’s demurrer and to enter an order sustaining the without leave to amend. The County contended that, when RPI requested the County to inform it of the number of signatures required for its initiative petition, the County did not owe RPI any statutory or constitutional duty to provide the information when requested. The County further argues it was immune from liability for communicating to RPI the incorrect number under Government Code sections 818.8 and 822.2. The Court of Appeal agreed that under Government Code sections 815 and 815.6, the County was not subject to liability because there was no breach of any statutory or constitutional duty. "[E]ven if the County owed RPI such a duty, the County was immune from liability under Government Code sections 818.8 and 822.2." The Court therefore concluded the trial court erred in overruling the County’s demurrer. View "County of San Bernardino v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law