Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

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Plaintiffs are the Powhatan County Republican Committee and four individuals nominated by the Committee to be candidates for election to the Board of Supervisors for Powhatan County, Virginia. Plaintiffs filed suit against the Board of Elections, challenging the constitutionality of the portion of Virginia Code 24.2-613(B) that provides that only candidates in elections "for federal, statewide, and General Assembly offices" may be identified on the ballot by the name of the political party that nominated them or by the term "Independent." The district court granted judgment in favor of the Board. The court concluded that the burden on associational rights imposed by Virginia's regulation of the use of party identifiers on official ballots is at most minimal and is amply justified by Virginia's important interests, which include minimizing partisanship at the local government level, promoting impartial governance, and maximizing the number of citizens eligible to hold local office under the Hatch Act, 5 U.S.C. 7321-7326; concluded that section 24.2-613(B)'s different treatment of local candidates and federal, statewide, and General Assembly candidates with respect to party identifiers on the ballot does not violate the Equal Protection Clause because such treatment is rationally related to legitimate governmental interests; and thus affirmed the judgment. View "Marcellus v. Virginia State Board of Elections" on Justia Law

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These consolidated cases challenge provisions of a recently enacted North Carolina election law. Session Law 2013-381.2 imposed a number of voting restrictions. The law required in-person voters to show certain photo IDs, beginning in 2016, which African Americans disproportionately lacked, and eliminated or reduced registration and voting access tools that African Americans disproportionately used. Prior to the enactment of SL 2013-381, the legislature requested and received racial data as to usage of the practices changed by the proposed law. Upon receipt of the race data, the General Assembly enacted legislation that restricted voting and registration in five different ways, all of which disproportionately affected African Americans. The court concluded that the asserted justifications for the law cannot and do not conceal the State’s true motivation: taking away minority voters' opportunity because they were about to exercise it. Therefore, the court concluded that the General Assembly enacted the challenged provisions of the law with discriminatory intent. The court reversed and remanded with instructions to enjoin the challenged provisions of the law. View "N.C. State Conference v. McCrory" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated cases, plaintiffs filed suit challenging two redistricting laws, alleging that some Wake County School Board and Wake County Board of County Commissioners districts have been over-populated, while others have been under-populated. Plaintiffs further assert that these discrepancies result in some votes counting more while others count less, and that the discrepancies stem from illegitimate redistricting factors. The court concluded that, to succeed on the merits, plaintiffs in one person, one vote cases with population deviations below 10% must show by a preponderance of the evidence that improper considerations predominate in explaining the deviations. In this case, plaintiffs have proven that it is more probable than not that the population deviations at issue here reflect the predominance of an illegitimate reapportionment factor, namely an intentional effort to create a significant partisan advantage. Therefore, the district court committed reversible error in granting judgment for defendants. For the same reasons that plaintiffs succeed with their federal claim, they also succeed with their North Carolina state one person, one vote claim. Finally, the district court did not commit clear error in rejecting plaintiffs' racial gerrymandering claim. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded in part, and affirmed in part. View "Raleigh Wake Citizens Ass'n v. Wake Cnty. Bd. of Elections" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a political figure in the Libertarian Party of Virginia, filed suit challenging Virginia's three-tiered ballot ordering law, Virginia Code 24.2-613. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff principally argued on appeal that Virginia's three-tiered ballot ordering law advantages candidates from what he calls “major parties” and disadvantages candidates like him that hail from what he calls “minor parties.” The court noted that the text and history of the Constitution, well established Supreme Court precedent, and the structural principles inherent in our federal system counsel respect for the Virginia General Assembly’s power to administer elections in Virginia. With state legislatures’ longstanding authority to regulate elections in mind, the court employed the Supreme Court’s Anderson/Burdick decisional framework to distinguish those laws whose burdens are uniquely unconstitutional from the majority of laws whose validity is unquestioned. The court concluded that the three-tiered ballot ordering law imposes little burden on plaintiff’s constitutional rights, and Virginia articulates several important interests supporting the law. The ballot ordering law imposes only the most modest burdens on plaintiff's rights where the law is facially neutral and nondiscriminatory. Furthermore, the law is supported by important regulatory interests where the law may assist the voting process by reducing voter confusion and preserving party-order, as well as reduce multi-party factionalism and promote political stability. Therefore, the court concluded that it has no basis for finding the state statute unconstitutional and affirmed the judgment. View "Sarvis v. Alcorn" on Justia Law

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Maryland allows any voter to vote via absentee ballot. Plaintiffs filed suit under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12132, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794, against state election officials under federal law, alleging that marking a hardcopy ballot by hand without assistance is impossible for voters with various disabilities, and that they have therefore been denied meaningful access to absentee voting. Defendants argue that even if absentee voting is not fully accessible, the full accessibility of Maryland’s in-person polling places provides disabled voters with meaningful access to voting. The court concluded that defendants’ proposed focus is overbroad and would undermine the purpose of the ADA and its implementing regulations. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court’s conclusion that by effectively requiring disabled individuals to rely on the assistance of others to vote absentee, defendants have not provided plaintiffs with meaningful access to Maryland’s absentee voting program. The court also concluded that plaintiffs’ proposed use of the online ballot marking tool is a reasonable modification to Maryland’s absentee voting policies and procedures. The court agreed with the the district court that defendants have not met their burden to show that plaintiffs’ proposed modification - use of the online ballot marking tool - would fundamentally alter Maryland’s voting program. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "National Federation of the Blind v. Lamone" on Justia Law