Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court affirming the decision of the Secretary of State to draft a single ballot question for a direct initiative, holding that the Secretary of State did not err or abuse her discretion in writing a single question in this instance.The direct initiative at issue proposed "An Act To Require Legislative Approval of Certain Transmission Lines, Require Legislative Approval of Certain Transmission Lines and Facilities and Other Projects on Public Reserved Lands and Prohibit the Construction of Certain Transmission Lines in the Upper Kennebec Region.” Appellant argued that the Secretary of State was statutorily required to prepare a separate question for each of three separate issues addressed by the direct initiative. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding that the Secretary of State did not abuse her discretion in reading the initiated bill in the conjunctive and drafting a single, concise ballot question describing the single Act. View "Caiazzo v. Secretary of State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court affirming the Portland City Council's decision not to submit to voters a citizen-initiated ballot question proposing a change to the City of Portland's charter, holding that remand was required.Five Portland voters initiated the process for circulating a petition in support of placing a proposed amendment to Portland's charter on an upcoming municipal ballot. After a sufficient number of signatures for the measure were obtained a public hearing was held. The City Council voted not to put the measure to the voters as a charter amendment. The superior court affirmed the City Council's decision. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the superior court's judgment, holding (1) the Home Rule Act authorizes municipal officers to review a proposed charter modification to determine whether it constitutes a revision rather than an amendment; and (2) the City Council failed to make findings of fact to explain its decision and enable appellate review. View "Fair Elections Portland, Inc. v. City of Portland" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction seeking to enjoin the Secretary of State from rejecting certain ballots, holding that Plaintiffs failed to show a clear likelihood of success on their complaint for declaratory relief.Plaintiffs filed a complaint against Maine's Secretary of State and Attorney General seeking a declaration that the statutory deadline established by Me. Rev. Stat. 21-A, 626(2) for receiving absentee ballots in an election and statutory provisions governing the validation and rejection of absentee ballots - Me. Rev. Stat. 21-A, 756(2), 759(3), (5), 762 - violate the federal and state Constitutions. Plaintiffs sought to enjoin the Secretary from rejecting ballots postmarked on or before Election Day and that arrive at the election office within a minimum of ten days after Election Day and rejecting absentee ballots of otherwise eligible Maine voters without giving the voter an opportunity to cure their ballot or verify their identity. Plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction granting the relief requested in the complaint. The superior court denied relief. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that absentee voters will be afforded fundamental fairness in the November 2020 election, and therefore, the superior court did not abuse its discretion in denying injunctive relief. View "Alliance for Retired Americans v. Secretary of State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court denied the motion filed by Plaintiffs to stay the effect of the mandate of this Court's decision issued in this matter on September 22, 2020 pending Plaintiffs' petition for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States, holding that Plaintiffs did not satisfy the test in order to stay the effect of the mandate.Plaintiffs argued that they will suffer irreparable harm if a stay is not granted because the ranked-choice-voting law will be in effect for the November election despite what they argued were an adequate number of signatures in support of the people's veto petition. The Supreme Judicial Court declined to stay the mandate, holding (1) the balance of harms and the public interest weigh against this Court's grant of Plaintiffs' requested stay; and (2) Plaintiffs did not establish a substantial possibility of success on the merits. View "Jones v. Secretary of State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court vacating the Secretary of State's determination that an inadequate number of valid signatures had been submitted to place on the ballot a people's veto of An Act to Implement Ranked-choice Voting for Presidential Primary and General Elections in Maine, holding that the superior court erred in concluding that Petitioner had satisfied his burden of overcoming the presumption of constitutionality.Upon a petition for review of the Secretary of State's decision, the superior court determined that it was unconstitutional for the State to require that every circulator who collected signatures be registered to vote in the circulator's municipality of residence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Petitioner failed to demonstrate that the constitutional and statutory requirement that a circulator be a registered voter in the circulator's municipality of residence when collecting signatures violates the First Amendment. The Court remanded the cause with instructions to affirm the Secretary of State's determinations that the signatures contested on appeal were invalid and that an inadequate number of valid signatures had been submitted to place the people's veto on the ballot. View "Jones v. Secretary of State" on Justia Law

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In this challenge to the superior court's judgment on a petition for judicial review challenging a decision of the Secretary of State the Supreme Judicial Court held that execution of the judgment was automatically stayed on appeal.The superior court vacated the Secretary of State's determination that insufficient signatures had been collective to place on the November 2020 ballot a people's veto of An Act to Implement Ranked-choice Voting for Presidential Primary and General Elections in Maine. Appellants moved to stay execution of the judgment pending their appeals to the Supreme Judicial Court. The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed both motions to stay as moot, holding that execution of the judgment was automatically stayed upon appeal. View "Jones v. Secretary of State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court accepted a report from the superior court submitting three questions of law concerning a people's veto effort seeking to suspend P.L. 2019, ch. 539 - entitled "An Act To Implement Ranked-choice Voting for Presidential Primary and General Elections in Maine" - through the November 2020 general election, answered the questions, and remanded the matter to the superior court for further proceedings.Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court answered (1) the Second Regular Session of the 129th Legislature served as the “session of the Legislature in which [L.D. 1083] was passed,” Me. Const. art. IV, pt. 3, 16-17; (2) Public Law 2019, ch. 539, was set to become effective on June 15, 2020, “90 days after the recess of” the Second Regular Session and was suspended upon the filing of the people’s veto petition; and (3) Title 21-A Me. Rev. Stat. 901(1) sets only an end date for the filing of applications for a people’s veto and not a starting cutoff that would prohibit the early filing of an application prior to the Legislature’s adjournment. View "Payne v. Secretary of State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the portion of the superior court's judgment dismissing the declaratory judgment count of Appellants' complaint seeking a declaration that a certain citizen initiative failed to meet the constitutional requirements for inclusion on the November 2020 ballot, holding that the initiative was unconstitutional and could not be submitted to the electors for popular vote.At issue was a citizen initiative that proposed a resolve that would reverse an order of the Maine Public Utilities Commission granting Central Maine Power Company's (CMP) request for a certificate of public convenience and necessity for a 145-mile transmission line. Avangrid Networks, Inc., the company that owned CMP as a subsidiary, filed a complaint leading to the present litigation, seeking a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. The district court dismissed the complaint, concluding that the initiative's constitutionality was not subject to judicial review before the election. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment, holding that the initiative failed to meet the constitutional requirements for inclusion on the ballot because it exceeded the scope of the legislative powers conferred by article IV, part 3, section 18 of the Maine Constitution. View "Avangrid Networks, Inc. v. Secretary of State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed the appeal brought by the Department of Health and Human Services (Department) from a partial judgment entered in the Business and Consumer Docket mandating the implementation of one provision of the citizen initiative expanding Medicaid coverage.The initiating petition in this case requested numerous forms of relief. The superior court addressed only one component of the requested relief due to ripeness issues. The Supreme Judicial Court decided that it must dismiss this appeal as interlocutory because the petition was not disposed of in its entirety and no exception to the final judgment rule existed. View "Maine Equal Justice Partners v. Commissioner, Department of Health & Human Services" on Justia Law

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Ranked-choice voting is the current statutory law of Maine for the primary elections scheduled for June 12, 2018.The superior court reported seven questions to the Supreme Judicial Court addressing the Secretary of State’s planned implementation of ranked-choice voting in Maine’s primary elections to be held on June 12, 2018. The Court answered Question 3 on its merits and held (1) the Court assumes without deciding that the Maine Senate has standing to seek a declaration regarding the legal status of ranked-choice voting in the June 2018 primary elections and to challenge in court the operational planning of the Secretary of State; (2) the answer to Question 3 is that ranked-choice voting is Maine’s statutory law for the June 2018 primary elections; (3) Questions 1 and 2 are not justiciable; and (4) the remaining questions are moot. View "Maine Senate v. Secretary of State" on Justia Law