Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil
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This case arose from a petition asserting the Idaho Commission for Reapportionment (“the Commission”) violated Idaho Code section 72-1506 when it adopted Plan C03, the congressional reapportionment plan, following the 2020 federal census. Petitioner Christopher Pentico argued the Commission failed to timely submit its plan and final report, and that Plan C03 violated Idaho Code section 72-1506 by splitting local precinct boundary lines. Pentico requested the Idaho Supreme Court issue a writ of prohibition to restrain the Secretary of State from transmitting a copy of the Commission’s Final Report and Plan C03 to the President Pro Tempore of the Idaho Senate and the Speaker of the Idaho House of Representatives. The Supreme Court declined, finding the Commission filed its Final Report within the ninety-day deadline, and pursuant to Idaho Code section 72-1506(7), a commission need not retain local precinct boundary lines with respect to its congressional plan if it determines it cannot complete its duties for a legislative district while retaining precincts. View "Pentico v. Idaho Commission for Reapportionment" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of multiple petitions challenging the constitutionality of Plan L03, the legislative redistricting plan adopted by the Idaho Commission for Reapportionment (“the Commission”) following the 2020 federal census. Petitioners generally argued that Plan L03 split more counties than was required to comport with federal constitutional requirements, rendering Plan L03 unconstitutional under the Idaho Constitution. The petitions were filed in the Idaho Supreme Court's original jurisdiction. Petitioners requested the Court issue a writ of prohibition to restrain the Secretary of State from transmitting a copy of the Commission’s Final Report and Plan L03 to the President Pro Tempore of the Idaho Senate and the Speaker of the Idaho House of Representatives. Finding there was no constitutional violation, the Supreme Court declined to issue the writ. View "Durst et al v. ID Comm. for Reapportionment" on Justia Law

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Two petitions reached the Idaho Supreme Court, both seeking to declare two statutes unconstitutional and to issue extraordinary writs: a writ of mandamus and a writ of prohibition. First, Michael Gilmore sought a declaration that Idaho Code section 34-1805(2), as amended by SB 1110, violated the people’s constitutional initiative and referendum rights. SB 1110 requires that, for an initiative or referendum to appear on the ballot, organizers must obtain a threshold number of signatures from “each of the thirty-five (35) legislative districts” in the state. Gilmore argued this violated the equal protection clause of the Idaho Constitution and unconstitutionally divides the people’s legislative power. Gilmore also petitioned for a writ of mandamus ordering the Idaho Secretary of State “not to implement” the statute as amended. In the second petition, Reclaim Idaho (“Reclaim”) and the Committee to Protect and Preserve the Idaho Constitution, Inc. (“the Committee”), sought a declaration that the new signature threshold mandated by SB 1110, requiring signatures from every legislative district, was unconstitutional. They also challenged the constitutionality of another statute, Idaho Code section 34-1813(2)(a), amended in 2020, stating that an initiative may not become effective earlier than July 1 of the year following the vote in which it was passed. Reclaim and the Committee contended both amended statutes nullify the people’s fundamental constitutional right to legislate directly. They also sought a writ of prohibition to prevent the Secretary of State from enforcing these statutory provisions. After review, the Supreme Court: (1) dismissed Gilmore's petition because he lacked standing; (2) granted Reclaim and the Committee's petition in part by declaring that section 34-1805(2) violated Article III, Section 1 of the Idaho Constitution, and the SOS and Legislature failed to present a compelling state interest for limiting that right. Furthermore, the Court declared section 34-1813(2)(a), violated Article III, Section 1 of the Idaho Constitution because it infringed on the people’s reserved power to enact legislation independent of the legislature. Accordingly, the Court granted Reclaim and the Committee’s petition for a writ of prohibition preventing the Secretary of State from enforcing this provision. View "Reclaim Idaho/Gilmore v. Denney" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Tom Katsilometes challenged the Idaho Senate’s order granting over $18,000 in attorney fees to Senator W. Marcus Nye, awarded after Nye prevailed against Katsilometes in a contest over the results of the 2016 general election. The Senate confirmed Nye’s election and awarded him costs and attorney fees. Because Katsilometes refused to pay the attorney fees, Nye brought an action in district court seeking a declaratory judgment ordering Katsilometes to pay him the amount ordered by the Senate. The district court granted the declaratory judgment and further awarded Nye costs, attorney fees, and prejudgment interest. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the Senate did not have the authority to award attorney fees to Nye at the time of the election contest. Nye was not entitled to recover his litigation costs, attorney fees, and prejudgment interest in the district court action. Therefore, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed the district court’s order enforcing the award of attorney fees to Nye pursuant to the order of the Idaho Senate, and vacated all costs, attorney fees, and prejudgment interest awarded to Nye by the district court. Neither side was entitled to attorney fees on appeal; however, as the prevailing party, Katsilometes was entitled to his costs on appeal. View "Nye v. Katsilometes" on Justia Law

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Phil Hart appealed a district court’s grant of summary judgment dismissing his action contesting the results of a primary election for a State legislative seat. The district court ruled Hart had failed to demonstrate that any irregularities in the election were “sufficient to change the result” - an essential component of an election challenge under the Elections Contests Act, Idaho Code sections 34-2101–34-3128. Hart appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hart v. Idaho Secretary of State" on Justia Law

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This case appealed a district court's denial of Petitioner Jim Brannon's election contest of the Coeur d'Alene city council election in 2009. In the official vote total, Brannon lost the election for seat 2 of the city council to Mike Kennedy by five votes. Brannon then filed an election contest that alleged numerous irregularities and sought to set aside, void, or annul the election. After a bench trial, the district court issued a memorandum decision that affirmed the election result, finding insufficient illegal votes or irregularities to change the outcome of the election. On appeal, Brannon argued that the City delegated its election duties to Kootenai County in contravention of Idaho law, that the district court made numerous factual and legal errors at trial, and that the district court erred in denying Brannon's motion to disqualify and motion for new trial. Upon review and finding no error, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court. View "Brannon v. City of Coeur D'Alene" on Justia Law

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The constitutionality of "Plan L 87," a legislative redistricting plan adopted by the Commission on Redistricting for reapportionment, was challenged and brought before the Supreme Court. Upon review, the Court found that the Plan complied with the strictures of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause of the federal constitution. However, the Plan did not comply with Article III, section 5 of the Idaho Constitution in that it did not "divide counties only to the extent that [they] must be divided to comply with the Federal Constitution." Furthermore, the Plan did not "avoid dividing counties whenever possible in violation of Idaho Code section 72-1506(5)." The Court did not order the Commission to adopt any one redistricting plan: "The commission certainly has the discretion to reject plans that have been submitted and draw boundaries in another manner that complies with both Constitutions." The Court directed the commission to reconvene and adopt a revised plan. View "Twin Falls County v. Idaho Commission on Redistricting" on Justia Law