Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas
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The Supreme Court denied an emergency mandamus action sought by Republican Party candidates in the November 2022 general election to remove their Libertarian Party opponents for failure to pay a statutory filing fee, holding that the petition was untimely.The Supreme Court denied the Republican's petition asserting that the Texas Election Code requires exclusion of the Libertarian candidates from the ballot without resolving he merits of the parties' dispute because the petition did not comport with recent instruction that "invoking judicial authority in the election context requires unusual dispatch." The Supreme Court denied the petition, holding that the petition did not comport with recent instruction that "invoking judicial authority in the election context requires unusual dispatch." View "In re Self" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the trial court dismissing the claims brought by the Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC) and the claim brought by a group of plaintiffs referred to as the Gutierrez Plaintiffs that the recently enacted laws reapportioning Texas's legislative districts violate Tex. Const. art. III, 26, holding that the trial court erred in part.MALC and the Gutierrez Plaintiffs sued Defendants - various State officials - claiming that the laws at issue violated Article III, Sections 26 and 28. Defendants filed pleas to the jurisdiction, which the trial court largely denied. The Supreme Court reversed in part and remanded the case to the trial court, holding (1) MALC lacked associational standing to pursue its claims; (2) at least one of the Gutierrez Plaintiffs had standing to pursue each claim a proper defendant, but not the State; (3) the Gutierrez Plaintiffs' section 26 was not barred by sovereign immunity, but the section 28 claim was; and (4) the Gutierrez Plaintiffs should have the opportunity to replead their section 26 claim against a proper defendant. View "Abbott v. Mexican American Legislative Caucus" on Justia Law

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Senate Bill 1, the Election Integrity Protection Act of 2021, 87th Leg., 2d C.S., ch. 1, 1.01, was intended “to make all laws necessary to detect and punish fraud” in connection with elections. A federal district court preliminarily enjoined enforcement of its provisions making it an offense for certain officials to “solicit[]” the submission of applications to vote by mail from persons who have not requested such applications" and that impose civil penalties for violations.On appeal, the Fifth Circuit certified three questions to the Supreme Court: whether one plaintiff, a volunteer deputy registrar, is a “public official” to whom the antisolicitation provision applies; whether certain types of speech constitute “solicitation” under that provision; and whether the Attorney General can enforce the civil penalties. The parties subsequently agreed that the answer to the first and third questions is no. With respect to the second certified question, the Texas Supreme Court answered that the statute’s definition of “solicits” is not so narrowly limited as to cover only seeking applications for violative mail-in ballots, nor is it so broad as to cover speech that merely informs listeners that they may apply. The court declined to provide a comprehensive definition of “solicits” under Election Code Section 276.016(a)(1). View "Paxton v. Longoria" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court conditionally granted relief in this mandamus action and directed the secretary of the city of West Lake Hills to accept Linda Anthony's application and place her on the ballot as a candidate for Mayor of the City of West Lake Hills, holding that Anthony was entitled to relief.Anthony, the current Mayor of West Lake Hills, submitted a 2022 ballot application that left blank the box for the applicant's occupation. The city secretary rejected the application because it did not provide all of the information required by Tex. Elec. Code 141.031, thus excluding Anthony from a place on the ballot as candidate for mayor. The Supreme Court conditionally granted relief, holding (1) Anthony's application was not defective for failing to list an occupation when she currently had no paid employment; and (2) therefore, the city secretary had no discretion to reject Anthony's application. View "In re Anthony" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied Relators' petition for writs of mandamus arguing that the Harris County Commissioners Court had stripped more than one million Texans of their right to vote for a commissioner in the 2022 election, holding that this petition could not go forward under settled precedents sharply limiting judicial authority to intervene in ongoing elections.Relators asked the Court to enjoin the use of a map enacted by the commissioners court, claiming to be in possession of an alternative map that lawfully redrew precincts without excluding any voter from consecutive county-commissioner elections. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that this Court lacked the ability to address the merits of this petition due to certain timing and nature-of-relief problems discussed in this opinion. View "In re Khanoyan" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court conditionally granted mandamus relief and directed the Austin City Council to revise the ballot language for a proposed ordinance that would establish minimum standards for the Austin Police Department "to enhance public safety and police oversight, transparency, and accountability," holding that Relator was entitled to relief, in part.The City Council chose to place the proposed ordinance before the voters for approval at the next general election. Rather than use the caption set for in the petition as the ballot language, the City Council approved its own description of the ordinance to be used and the ballot using language that differed materially from the caption in the petition. Relator brought this proceeding challenging the chosen ballot language. The Supreme Court conditionally granted mandamus relief, holding (1) the City correctly determined that the caption's omission of the ordinance's financial impact violated state law, requiring modification; but (2) the Austin City Charter forbade the remainder of the City's revisions to the petitioned caption. View "In re Petricek" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court conditionally granted a petition for writ of mandamus and directed the Austin City Council to delete the word "anyone" from a proposed ordinance before placing it on the ballot, holding that Relators clearly established their entitlement to mandamus relief in one respect.The council's ballot language said the proposed ordinance created a criminal offense and penalty for anyone sitting or lying down on a public sidewalk or sleeping outdoors in or near downtown and for anyone camping in a public area not designated by the Parks and Recreation Department. The ordinance, however, did not apply "to anyone" who engaged in the enumerated activities but, rather, only a subset of those who engaged in the covered behavior could be penalized under the ordinance. The Supreme Court conditionally granted in part the petition for writ of mandamus, holding that the word "anyone" in the ballot language threatened to mislead the voters. View "In re Durnin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the trial court temporarily enjoining the Governor and Secretary of State from implementing or enforcing the Governor's October Proclamation affecting the conduct of the 2020 election and dissolved the temporary injunction issued by the trial court, holding that Plaintiffs failed to establish a probable right to an injunction blocking the October Proclamation.On October 1, 2020, the Governor issued a proclamation restricting delivery of mail-in ballots prior to Election Day to a single early voting clerk's office location. The October Proclamation prohibited county officials from designating multiple mail-in ballot delivery sites prior to election day but left in place the county officials' ability to offer multiple drop-ff sites on election day. Plaintiffs challenged the October Proclamation as impermissibly burdening the right to vote. The trial court temporarily enjoined the Governor and Secretary of State from implementing or enforcing the proclamation, reasoning that the limitation contained within unreasonably substantially burdened voters' constitutionally protected right to vote. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiffs did not establish a probable right to relief on their claim that the October Proclamation impermissibly burdened the constitutional right to vote. View "Abbott v. Anti-Defamation League" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied Relators' petition for writ of mandamus directing the Texas Secretary of State to conduct the November 3, 2020 general election according to the statutory provisions suspended by the Texas Governor's July 27, 2020 proclamation suspending two provisions of the Texas Election Code as they relate to the general election, holding that Relators did not act diligently to protect their rights, and therefore, mandamus relief was not available.Under the July 27 proclamation, early voting by personal appearance begins six days earlier, and early voting ballots may be delivered to the clerk's officer prior to and including on Election Day. Relators, including the Republican Party of Texas and current and former state officials, initiated this original proceeding, arguing that the proclamation was not authorized by the Texas Disaster Act of 1975, and if it was, that the Act violates Tex. Const. art. I, 19 and 28. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding that Relators' delay in challenging the proclamation for more than ten weeks after it was issued precluded the consideration that their claims required. View "In re Steven Hotze" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the Election Code did not authorize the Harris County Clerk to mail unsolicited ballot applications to all registered voters under sixty-five years of age, only some of whom were eligible to vote by mail, and remanded this case to the trial court to issue a temporary injunction prohibiting the clerk from mass-mailing unsolicited ballot applications to voters.Chris Hollins, the Harris County Clerk, announced on August 25, 2020 that he would send an application to vote to every registered voter in the county under age sixty-five, only a fraction of whom were eligible to vote by mail. The State sued Hollins, alleging that mass mailing applications would be an ultra virus action. The trial court denied the State's request for a temporary injunction. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the State had not demonstrated that it would be irreparably injured by Collins mass mailing applications. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Election Code does not authorize an early-voting clerk to send an application to vote by mail to a voter who has not requested one; and (2) the State satisfied the requirements for a temporary injunction in this case. View "State v. Hollins" on Justia Law