Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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In 2014, two Green Party members sought to appear on the Illinois general election ballot as candidates for state representative. Because the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/1-1) deemed the Green Party a “new” political party in both districts in which they sought ballot placement, both were required to obtain nomination petition signatures equaling 5% of the number of voters in the prior regular election for state representative in their district. The signatures had to be collected in the 90 days preceding the petition deadline, with each petition sheet be notarized. Neither candidate met those requirements. In their suit under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. State ballot access laws seek to balance state interests with “the right of individuals to associate for the advancement of political beliefs, and the right of qualified voters, regardless of their political persuasion, to cast their votes effectively.” The Supreme Court has never required a state to make a particularized showing of the existence of voter confusion, ballot overcrowding, or the presence of frivolous candidacies before the imposition of reasonable restrictions on ballot access. The signature and notarization requirements, even in conjunction with the 90‐day petitioning window and geographic layouts of the districts at issue, do not violate the First or Fourteenth Amendment. View "Tripp v. Scholz" on Justia Law

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Under Illinois law, a political party that has not attained sufficient votes in past elections must field candidates for all offices on the ballot in the political subdivision in which it wishes to compete. In the 2012 election, the Libertarian Party could field a candidate for Kane County auditor only if it also proposed candidates for six other offices. In its suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the Party argued that the full-slate requirement violated its right of political association under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The Seventh Circuit agreed, rejecting an argument that the requirement is justified by its interests in political stability, preventing ballot overcrowding, and avoiding voter confusion. The core of the fundamental right to political association is the right to band together in a political party to advance a policy agenda by electing the party’s members to office. That necessarily includes the candidates’ right to appear on the ballot under the party banner. For a minor party and its nominees, Illinois’s full-slate requirement extinguishes those rights unless the party fields candidates in races it may want no part of. This is a severe burden on fundamental constitutional rights. Illinois has not offered a compelling state interest to justify it. By incentivizing minor parties to manufacture frivolous candidacies, the full-slate requirement actually thwarts the interests Illinois invokes. View "Libertarian Party of Illinois v. Cunningham" on Justia Law

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The Republican Party sued the Cook County Board of Election Commissioners, arguing that the Board must include on the ballot a candidate that the Party slated for the House of Representatives in the November 2016 election. The Board had never announced a plan to exclude the candidate. The district court entered an injunction compelling the Board to keep this candidate on the ballot. The Seventh Circuit remanded with instructions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Party’s dispute with two additional defendants, elected as ward committeemen, based on the Party’s refusal to seat them, is not a federal claim. The Party’s “anticipatory federal contention,” that ”if state law does not respect the Party’s eligibility rules, then Illinois violates the First Amendment,” was only a potential response to a potential contention by the committeemen that all elected ward committeemen must be seated on the Party’s central committee. The district judge did not consider the fact that public officials were not contesting the Party’s claims or the possibility that he was issuing an advisory opinion. If the committeemen had sued the Party, demanding membership on its central committee, their claim would have arisen under Illinois law. View "Cook County Republican Party v. Sapone" on Justia Law

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Two-and-a-half months before the November 2016 general election, Harlan, the Republican Party’s candidate for an Illinois congressional seat, and the Crawford County Republican Central Committee filed suit, seeking a preliminary injunction against the implementation of a state law that allows voters to register and vote on Election Day itself. The law generally gives more options for same‐day registration and voting for residents of counties with populations of 100,000 or more than it does for those who live in smaller counties. The plaintiffs contended that the difference violated their rights under the Equal Protection Clause. The district court agreed with them and issued the injunction; the Seventh Circuit granted a stay of that injunction, then vacated the preliminary injunction altogether. The district court’s finding that voters would suffer irreparable harm was unsupported as was its application of strict scrutiny based on a finding that the burden on voters in the smaller counties was severe. Plaintiffs failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits. View "Harlan v. Orr" on Justia Law