Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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Plaintiff filed suit challenging Arkansas's ballot access requirements for independent candidates. The Secretary appealed the district court's grant of plaintiff's request for declaratory and injunctive relief. The Eighth Circuit dismissed the appeal as moot, because the state legislature recently amended the challenged statute to accord with the petition filing deadline that plaintiff had sought, and thus no controversy remains. The court held that the equities weighed against vacatur, and the public interest is best served by a substantial body of judicial precedents limiting the burden that those requirements may place on candidates' and voters' First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. View "Moore v. Thurston" on Justia Law

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An unpaid lobbyist unsuccessfully sued to enjoin enforcement of Mo. Rev. Stat. Sections 105.470 and 105.473 which require lobbyists to register and report certain activities. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The district court properly analyzed the claims under an intermediate or exacting level of scrutiny, rather than strict scrutiny, citing the “Citizens United” decision. Missouri has a sufficiently important governmental interest in government transparency to require both paid and unpaid lobbyists to register and report and the registration requirements in Sec. 105.473 are substantially related to Missouri's interest in transparency. The burden placed on the plaintiff is not disproportionate to Missouri's interest and the court did not err in finding the statute was constitutional as applied to the plaintiff. The court rejected a facial challenge to the word "designated" in the definition of a legislative lobbyist. The term is clearly defined, and the statute uses the word within its plain meaning; “people of ordinary intelligence” would have a “reasonable opportunity to understand” what “designated” means in the context of the statute. View "Calzone v. Hagan" on Justia Law

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The North Dakota Secretary of State filed a motion to stay an order of the district court that enjoined parts of the North Dakota elections statutes. The district court enjoined the Secretary from enforcing a provision that required a voter to present at the polls a valid form of identification that provides the voter's current residential street address. The Eighth Circuit granted the motion and held that the Secretary demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits in his challenge to this aspect of the injunction, the State would be irreparably harmed by the injunction during the general election in November, and a stay should be granted after consideration of all relevant factors. View "Brakebill v. Jaeger" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was appointed as a presidential elector during the 2016 presidential election, he was deemed to have vacated his position under Minnesota's Uniform Faithful Presidential Electors Act, Minn. Stat. 208.40-208.48, when he attempted to vote for candidates other than those to whom he was pledged. Plaintiff then filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the Minnesota statute and to enjoin Minnesota officials from counting the vote of the substitute elector. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action as moot where Congress had counted the Minnesota elector votes, and denied plaintiff's motion to supplement the record and to remand for further proceedings on mootness. The court held that plaintiff failed to establish that his action fell within the mootness exception for cases that were capable of repetition yet evading review because plaintiff failed to file his action sooner. View "Abdurrahman v. Dayton" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Robert McChesney's suit against the Commission after it imposed a civil penalty on him as treasurer of Bart McLeay's campaign for United States Senate in Nebraska. In this case, the Commission found that McChesney failed to file certain notices of campaign contributions that must be reported within 48 hours. As a preliminary matter, the court held that it was not reversible error for the district court to rule based on the record that was available to it, and the court rejected the Commission's contention that McChesney did not bring a proper challenge. On the merits, the court rejected McChesney's claim that the Commission failed to establish the 2014 penalty schedule and held that the statute did not require the Commission in 2014 to conduct the sort of evaluative review that McChesney sought; the district court properly declined to set aside the 2014 penalty schedule based on an alleged violation of the Sunshine Act or implementing regulations; and McChesney did not plead a plausible claim for relief based on alleged flaws in the Commission's voting procedure. View "McChesney v. Hunter" on Justia Law

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On remand from the United States Supreme Court, the Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants in light of Minnesota Majority v. Mansky, 849 F.3d 749, 753 (8th Cir. 2017). Plaintiffs filed suit against the Minnesota Secretary of State and others, challenging a statute prohibiting the wearing of political insignia at a polling place, Minnesota Statute 211B.11. This court reversed the dismissal of defendants' as-applied First Amendment claim. On remand, the district court granted summary judgment for defendants and this court affirmed. The Supreme Court then reversed and remanded, holding that the statute violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. View "Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky" on Justia Law

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Under Missouri campaign finance law, chapter 130, a “campaign committee” is formed to receive contributions or make expenditures solely to support or oppose particular ballot measures, "such committee shall be formed no later than thirty days prior to the election for which the committee receives contributions or makes expenditures." Thirteen days before the November 2014 general election, a group formed MFA as a campaign committee, to accept contributions and make expenditures in support of Proposition 10. MFA sued to enjoin enforcement of the formation deadline, citing the First Amendment. The district court granted MFA a temporary restraining order. MFA received contributions and made expenditures before the election. After the election, MFA terminated as a campaign committee. The Eighth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of MFA. While a formation deadline by itself might not expressly limit speech, the deadline here is more than a disclosure requirement because it prohibits (or significantly burdens) formation of a campaign committee, a requisite for legally engaging in speech, even if the individual or group is willing to comply with organizational and disclosure requirements. Even if the state’s interest in preventing circumvention of chapter 130’s disclosure regime is compelling, the formation deadline is unconstitutional because it is not narrowly tailored, given its burden on speech and its modest effect on preventing circumvention of the disclosure regime. View "Missourians for Fiscal Accountability v. Klahr" on Justia Law

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The Libertarian Party filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief against the Arkansas Secretary of State, claiming that the ballot access statutory scheme violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. During the Secretary's appeal of the district court's judgment, the Arkansas General Assembly amended its statute to allow new political parties to hold their nominating convention and submit their certificates of nomination at 12:00 p.m. on the day of the major parties' primary election. The Fifth Circuit held that the Libertarian Party's claim for declaratory relief has been rendered moot. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded with directions to dismiss the complaint. The court affirmed the award of costs and attorney's fees. View "Libertarian Party of Arkansas v. Martin" on Justia Law