Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court rejected Donald Trump's effort to invalidate more than 220,000 votes from Dane and Milwaukee Counties in the 2020 presidential election, holding that the challenge to indefinitely confined voter ballots was without merit and that laches barred relief on the remaining three categories of challenged ballots.Petitioners brought this action seeking to invalidated a sufficient number of Wisconsin ballots to change Wisconsin's certified election results, focusing its objections on four different categories of ballots applying only to voters in Dane and Milwaukee County. Among those challenged ballots were ballots cast by voters who claimed indefinitely confined status since March 25, 2020. The Supreme Court concluded that the Petitioners were not entitled to the requested relief, holding (1) the challenge to the indefinitely confined voter ballots was meritless on its face; and (2) the other three categories of challenged ballots failed under the doctrine of laches. View "Trump v. Biden" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Governor Evers' Emergency Order #12 did not render all Wisconsin electors "indefinitely confined," thereby obviating the requirement of a valid photo identification to obtain an absentee ballot.Petitioners, Mark Jefferson and the Republican Part of Wisconsin, filed a petition for original action seeking a declaration that Respondents lacked the authority to issue an interpretation of Wisconsin's election law allowing all electors in Dane County to obtain an absentee ballot without photo identification and that the Emergency Order did not authorize all Wisconsin voters to obtain an absentee ballot without a photo identification. The Supreme Court answered (1) Wis. Stat. 6.86(2)(a) requires that each individual elector make his or her own determination as to whether the elector is indefinitely confined, and an elector is indefinitely confined for purposes of section 6.86(2)(a) for only the enumerated reasons therein; and (2) Respondents' interpretation of Wisconsin election laws was erroneous. View "Jefferson v. Dane County" on Justia Law

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Delaware’s Constitution contains a political balance requirement for appointments to the state’s major courts. No more than a bare majority of judges on any of its five major courts “shall be of the same political party.” Art. IV, section 3. On three of those courts, those members not in the bare majority “shall be of the other major political party.” Adams, a Delaware lawyer and political independent, sued, claiming that those requirements violate his First Amendment right to freedom of association by making him ineligible to become a judge unless he joins a major political party.The Supreme Court held that because Adams has not shown that he was “able and ready” to apply for a judicial vacancy in the imminent future, he failed to show a “personal,” “concrete,” and “imminent” injury necessary for Article III standing. A grievance that amounts to nothing more than abstract and generalized harm to a citizen’s interest in the proper application of the law is not an “injury in fact.” Adams must at least show that he is likely to apply to become a judge in the reasonably foreseeable future if not barred because of political affiliation. Adams’ only supporting evidence is his statements that he wanted to be, and would apply to be, a judge on any of Delaware’s courts. The evidence fails to show that, when he filed suit, Adams was “able and ready” to apply for a judgeship in the reasonably foreseeable future. Adams’ statements lack supporting evidence, like efforts to determine possible judicial openings or other preparations. Adams did not apply for numerous existing judicial vacancies while he was a registered Democrat. He then read a law review article arguing that Delaware’s judicial eligibility requirements unconstitutionally excluded independents, changed his political affiliation, and filed suit. View "Carney v. Adams" on Justia Law

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This case involved cross appeals regarding a petition to recall Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan based on events that occurred at protests following the killing of George Floyd. The recall petition alleged Mayor Durkan failed to adequately control the Seattle Police Department’s (SPD) response to the protests, allowing the police to use unnecessary force and causing significant harm to nonviolent protesters, local residents, media representatives, and medical aid workers. Of the seven recall charges, six were dismissed by the trial court and one was allowed to move forward. Mayor Durkan appealed the charge that was allowed to move forward, and the recall petitioners appealed the dismissal of two other charges. On October 8, 2020, the Washington Supreme Court issued an order affirming the trial court’s dismissal of two recall charges and reversing the finding that one charge was sufficient for recall. View "In re Recall of Durkan" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed the petition filed by Petitioners asking the Supreme Court to temporarily restrain the State Canvassing Board from certifying the results of the November 3, 2020 general election held in Minnesota and to require a full recount of the federal and state offices on the ballot, holding that the petition must be dismissed.Petitioners asserted three claims in their petition. Counts I and II rested on challenges to consent decrees entered by the district court that suspended the witness requirement for absentee and mail ballots for the 2020 general election. Count III challenged the processes used in some counties for conducting the post-election review. The Supreme Court dismissed the petition, holding (1) Counts I and II were barred by laches; and (2) because Petitioners did not file proof that the petition was served in compliance with Minn. Stat. 204B.44, Count III must be dismissed. View "Kistner v. Simon" on Justia Law

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Ten days after the 2020 presidential election, plaintiff, a Georgia voter, filed suit against state election officials to enjoin certification of the general election results, to secure a new recount under different rules, and to establish new rules for an upcoming runoff election. Plaintiff alleged that the extant absentee-ballot and recount procedures violated Georgia law and, as a result, his federal constitutional rights. The district court denied plaintiff's motion for emergency relief.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, concluding that plaintiff lacks standing to sue because he fails to allege a particularized injury. The court explained that plaintiff alleged only a generalized grievance because he bases his standing on his interests in ensuring that only lawful ballots are counted, and an injury to the right to require that the government be administered according to the law is a generalized grievance. In this case, plaintiff cannot explain how his interest in compliance with state election laws is different from that of any other person.Even if plaintiff had standing, because Georgia has already certified its election results and its slate of presidential electors, plaintiff's requests for emergency relief are moot to the extent they concern the 2020 election. The court stated that the Constitution makes clear that federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and the court may not entertain post-election contests about garden-variety issues of vote counting and misconduct that may properly be filed in state courts. View "Wood v. Raffensperger" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal in this election dispute, holding that because the election at issue had already occurred, the case was moot.In this action, Appellant, a qualified voter, challenged the ballot title of two proposed constitutional amendments referred by the General Assembly to the voters of the State of Arkansas for the November 3, 2020 general election. On October 26, 2020, the circuit court granted Appellee's motion to dismiss with prejudice. The next day, Appellant filed his notice of appeal, asserting that the circuit court erred in declining to overrule Becker v. Riviere, 641 S.W.2d 2 (Ark. 1982), and its progeny. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that the case was moot and that none of the exceptions to mootness applied. View "Kimbrell v. Thurston" on Justia Law

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Challengers filed suit alleging that a 2018 North Carolina law requiring voters to present photographic identification is unconstitutional because it was enacted with the same discriminatory intent as the 2013 Omnibus Law. The district court found that the Challengers were likely to succeed on the merits of their constitutional claims and issued a preliminary injunction against the law's enforcement.The Fourth Circuit reversed, holding that a legislature's past acts do not condemn the acts of a later legislature, which the court must presume acts in good faith. In this case, the district court considered the General Assembly's discriminatory intent in passing the 2013 Omnibus Law to be effectively dispositive of its intent in passing the 2018 Voter-ID Law. In doing so, it improperly flipped the burden of proof at the first step of its analysis and failed to give effect to the Supreme Court's presumption of legislative good faith in Abbott v. Perez, 138 S. Ct. 2305, 2324 (2018). Consequently, these errors fatally infected its finding of discriminatory intent.Furthermore, once the proper burden and the presumption of good faith are applied, the Challengers fail to meet their burden of showing that the General Assembly acted with discriminatory intent in passing the 2018 Voter-ID Law. The court considered the Arlington Heights factors—the sequence of events leading to enactment, legislative history, and disparate impact—and concluded that they cannot support a finding of discriminatory intent. Therefore, the district court abused its discretion in issuing the preliminary injunction. View "North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP v. Raymond" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court finding that Democratic Party nominee Jimmie Wilson had been convicted of crimes that disqualified him under Ark. Const. art. IV, 9 from serving in the Arkansas House of Representatives and finding that Wilson's presidential pardon did not restore his eligibility to sit as a representative, holding that the circuit court did not err.In 1990, Wilson entered a guilty plea in federal court to five misdemeanor offenses. In 2001, Wilson received a presidential pardon from President William Jefferson Clinton. In 2020, Wilson was selected as the Democratic Party nominee to run in the November 3, 2020 election for the House District 12 seat. On October 15, 2020, Plaintiffs filed a complaint alleging that Wilson was disqualified from serving in the Arkansas General Assembly. The circuit court ruled that Wilson was ineligible to serve in the Arkansas House of Representatives due to his convictions and that his presidential pardon did not restore his eligibility. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court correctly concluded that Wilson's presidential pardon did not restore his eligibility to sit as a representative in the Arkansas General Assembly. View "Gray v. Webb" on Justia Law

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North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum petitioned the State Supreme Court to exercise its original jurisdiction and issue declarations and a writ of mandamus concerning who appoints the replacement after the pre-election death of a candidate for an office in the Legislative Assembly. Four candidates appeared on the 2020 general election ballot for two available seats for the office of State Representative for District Eight. The prior officeholder died in October 2020, twenty-nine days before the election, and after ballots were printed and early voting had begun. The North Dakota Secretary of State requested an advisory opinion from the state Attorney General on what to do about votes cast for the deceased candidate. The Attorney General responded stating that the North Dakota legislative assembly would follow the procedure codified in N.D.C.C. 16.1-13-10: "Upon the application of state law and the ‘American’ rule, it is my opinion that this would be the appropriate method to fill a vacancy." Election day totals showed Dave Nehring received the most votes and David Andahl received the second most votes. In accordance with the Attorney General's Opinion, the election results were certified but no certificate of election was issued to Andahl because of his death. Officials for the District Eight Republican Committee announced their intention to appoint an individual to fill the office. Kathrin Volochenko received the third most votes. She intervened in this case and claimed no vacancy in office would exist because she was elected to the office. On December 1, 2020, Nehring was set to fill one of the seats because he received the most votes. Andahl received the second most votes, and he presumably would have filled the other seat but died and will not do so. Therefore, as a matter of law, a vacancy would exist on December 1, 2020. When a vacancy in office occurs, the Governor’s constitutional authority to fill it is contingent upon there being “no other method” provided by law. A governor does not have authority to fill a legislative branch vacancy unless the gap-filling authority of N.D. Const. art. V, section 8 permits it. The Supreme Court declared a vacancy in office would exist on December 1, 2020, and the Governor did not have statutory or constitutional authority to make an appointment to fill the vacancy in this case. "He has not established a clear legal right to performance of the acts he seeks. Therefore, a writ of mandamus is not warranted. We deny the requested relief." View "Burgum v. Jaeger, et al." on Justia Law