Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the superior court judge’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the director of the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) on Plaintiffs’ claim that Massachusetts’s ban on corporate contributions, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 55, 8, imposes an unconstitutional restraint on their rights to free speech and association and denies them their right to equal protection under the law, holding that the challenged statute is constitutional. Plaintiffs, business corporations, brought this action challenging the law limiting political spending of corporations. The superior court granted summary judgment for OCPF. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) section 8 is constitutional under the First Amendment and articles 16 and 19 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights; and (2) section 8 does not violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or Plaintiffs’ entitlement to equal protection under article 1 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. View "1A Auto, Inc. v. Director of Office of Campaign & Political Finance" on Justia Law

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The twenty-day blackout period for voter registration prior to an election does not violate the Massachusetts Constitution. The trial judge in this case declared Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51, 1, 1F, 26 and 34 to be unconstitutional to the extent that these statutes’ twenty-day deadline operates to deny constitutionally qualified voters the right to cast a ballot. The Supreme Judicial court vacated the judgment of the superior court and remanded the case, holding that the twenty-day deadline was not unconstitutional but that the Legislature has a continuing duty to ensure that the deadline is no further from election day than what the Legislature reasonably believes is consistent with the Commonwealth’s interest in conducting a fair and orderly election. View "Chelsea Collaborative, Inc. v. Secretary of the Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that a recall election to remove Plaintiff, a member of the board of selectmen of the town of Townsend, from office pursuant to the town’s recall act may not proceed because the act provides for a recall vote to take place only on grounds not alleged here. In 2017, Petitioners, ten registered voters residing in the town, submitted to the town clerk a petition seeking to recall Plaintiff, citing malfeasance and neglect of duty as grounds for the recall. Plaintiff commenced an action to enjoin the recall election, contending that the allegations made against her were legally insufficient to initiate a recall under the act. The superior court denied Plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction, but a single justice of the Appeals Court ordered that a preliminary injunction issue. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the recall election may not proceed because the allegations in the affidavit supporting the petition for recall do not fall within the act’s enumerated grounds. View "King v. Town Clerk of Townsend" on Justia Law

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At issue in these two consolidated appeals was an initiative petition that proposed to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana and products that contain marijuana concentrate. In the first case (Hensley case) Plaintiffs claimed that the Attorney General erred in certifying the petition for inclusion on the ballot under article 48 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution because it contained two unrelated subjects, because the Attorney General’s summary was not fair, and because the title and one-sentence statements were misleading. In the second case (Allen case) Plaintiffs challenged the title and one-sentence statements but on different grounds from those alleged by the Hensley plaintiffs. The Supreme Judicial Court ordered the Attorney General and Secretary of the Commonwealth to amend the title and statement, holding (1) the Attorney General did not err in certifying the petition for inclusion on the ballot because the petition contains only related subjects and the summary of the petition is fair; but (2) the petition’s title and the one-sentence statement describing the effect of a “yes” vote are misleading, in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, 53. View "Hensley v. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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On August 5, 2015, sixteen voters submitted Initiative Petition 15-12 to the Attorney General. The petition (1) sought to end the use of the Common Core State Standards in defining the educational curriculum of publicly funded elementary and secondary students in the Commonwealth, and (2) addressed the standardized testing process used in Massachusetts school districts. The Attorney General certified to the Secretary of the Commonwealth that the petition was in the proper form and met the requirements of article 48, The Initiative, II, section 3 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution. On January 22, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a complaint seeking to quash the certification of the petition and to enjoin the Secretary from including the substance of the proposed measure on the November, 2016 ballot. The Supreme Judicial Court granted the requested relief, holding that the Attorney General’s certification of Initiative Petition 15-12 did not comply with article 48 because it contained provisions that were not related or mutually dependent. View "Gray v. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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Eugene McCain filed an initiative petition that sought to amend Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 23K to authorize the Gaming Commission to award one additional license for a slot machine parlor. The Attorney General certified the petition. Plaintiffs, ten registered voters and residents of Suffolk County, brought an action against the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Commonwealth, contending that the petition violated tw restrictions set forth in Article 48 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution, which sets forth certain standards for initiative petitions. The Supreme Judicial Court denied relief, holding that the petition did not violate Article 48’s restrictions and was therefore properly certified by the Attorney General. View "Bogertman v. Attorney General" on Justia Law