Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court dismissed as moot Plaintiff's appeal from the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint challenging a referendum petition preventing Act 579 of 2019 from becoming law, holding that because of the resolution of the petition for referendum in a separate case, this appeal was moot.Act 579 permits optometrists to perform surgical procedures. Defendant, a ballot question committee, filed a statewide referendum petition preventing the Act from becoming law. Plaintiff, also a ballot question committee, was formed to defend the Act. Plaintiff filed a complaint asking the circuit court to enjoin the Secretary of State from counting the petition signatures because the petition did not comply with newly enacted Act 376. The circuit court dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and concluded that the case was barred by res judicata. Plaintiff appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that a decision decided today that the petition for referendum cannot be placed on the ballot mooted the issues here. View "Arkansans For Healthy Eyes v. Thurston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied Petitioners' petition for leave to commence an original action and motion for temporary injunctive relief in this election matter, holding that it was too late to grant Petitioners any form of relief that would be feasible and that would not cause confusion and undue damage to the Wisconsin electors and the other candidates in the various races on the general election ballot.Petitioners were the Green Party's candidates for President and Vice President of the United States. Because the Commission failed to certify at least 2000 valid signatures Petitioners filed a petition for leave to commence an original action and a motion for temporary injunctive relief asking that the Supreme Court order that their names be placed on Wisconsin's 2020 fall general election ballot. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding (1) Petitioners delayed seeking relief in a situation where hundreds, if not thousands, of absentee ballots have already been mailed to electors; and (2) therefore, this Court declines to exercise its original jurisdiction due to the lack of sufficient time to complete its review and award any effective relief without completely upsetting the election. View "Hawkins v. Wisconsin Elections Commission" on Justia Law

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The people of Florida amended their state constitution to restore the voting rights of convicted felons. Before regaining the right to vote, felons must complete all the terms of their sentences, including imprisonment, probation, and payment of any fines, fees, costs, and restitution. Felons sued, challenging the requirement that they pay their fines, fees, costs, and restitution before regaining the right to vote. They alleged the requirement violated the Equal Protection Clause as applied to felons who cannot pay; imposed a tax on voting in violation of the Twenty-Fourth Amendment; was void for vagueness; and adopted requirements that make it difficult for them to determine whether they are eligible to vote. The district court permanently enjoined the condition's enforcement.The Eleventh Circuit reversed. States may restrict voting by felons in ways that would be impermissible for other citizens. Laws governing felon disenfranchisement and re-enfranchisement are generally subject to rational basis review; “reform may take one step at a time.” Florida has legitimate interests in disenfranchising convicted felons, even those who have completed their sentences, and in restoring felons to the electorate after justice has been done and they have been fully rehabilitated. Fines, which are paid to the government as punishment for a crime, and restitution, which compensates crime victims, are not taxes. Felons and law enforcement can readily discern exactly what conduct is prohibited: a felon may not vote or register to vote if he knows that he has failed to complete all terms of his criminal sentence. View "Jones v. Governor of Florida" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied the writ of mandamus sought by Relators ordering the members of the Stow City Council to hold an administrative vote on nine amendments to the Stow City Charter that were proposed by the 2020 Charter Review Commission and to issue an ordinance certifying the amendments to the board for placement on the November 3, 2020 general election ballot, holding that the Relators were not entitled to the writ.The Supreme Court denied the writs of the basis of the doctrine of laches, as well as Relators' failure to establish the existence of a clear legal right to the requested relief and a clear legal duty on the part of Respondents to provide it. The Court held (1) Relators met the elements of laches, and therefore, the doctrine of laches barred Relators' claims; and (2) Relators did not establish a clear and legal right to the requested relief, a clear legal duty on the part of Respondents to grant it, or a lack of an adequate remedy in the ordinary course of the law. View "State ex rel. Syx v. Stow City Council" on Justia Law

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Section 82.003 of the Texas Election Code does not violate plaintiff's Twenty-Sixth Amendment right to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic. Plaintiffs based their Twenty-Sixth Amendment claim on the argument that differential treatment in allowing voters aged 65 and older to vote by mail without excuse constitutes, at least during the pandemic, a denial or abridgment of a younger citizen's right to vote on account of age.The Fifth Circuit vacated the preliminary injunction requiring Texas officials to allow any Texan eligible to vote to do so by absentee ballot. After determining that the voter plaintiffs have met their burden on the causation prong and therefore have standing, the court held that sovereign immunity does not bar suit against the Secretary and the political question doctrine does not bar the court's review.On the merits, the court held that adding a benefit to another class of voters neither denies nor abridges plaintiffs' Twenty-Sixth Amendment right to vote. The court explained that at-risk voters of any age can utilize the Election Code's disability provision to mitigate the risk of COVID-19. However, it does not permit all voters to claim that reasonable fear of exposure is a disability. The court further stated that there are quite reasonable concerns about voting in person, but the state's mandating that many voters continue to vote in that way does not amount to an absolute prohibition of the right to vote. As to abridgment, the court stated that voters under age 65 did not have no-excuse absentee voting prior to the pandemic. Furthermore, requiring many to vote in person during this crisis, with safety measures being imposed and some flexibility as to "disability" being shown, does not amount to an unconstitutional status quo. The court noted that the real issue here is equal protection, which is not before the court. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Texas Democratic Party v. Abbott" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for allegedly imposing a voter-registration requirement that violates federal law. After the district court denied the Secretary's motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and (b)(6), the Secretary noticed an interlocutory appeal, and plaintiffs moved for summary affirmance or dismissal of the Secretary's appeal as frivolous.The Fifth Circuit held that the Secretary's appeal is not frivolous because it presents an important question that has not been resolved by the court: whether and to what extent the exception in Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 157 (1908), to sovereign immunity permits plaintiffs to sue the Secretary in an as-applied challenge to a law enforced by local officials. Accordingly, the court denied the motion for summary affirmance and the motion to dismiss the appeal as frivolous. View "Texas Democratic Party v. Hughs" on Justia Law

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As the foundation for the application of Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5 to this case, the Court of Appeal held that an unincorporated association has standing to appear in an election contest as a representative of its members if (1) its members live in the area affected by the outcome of the election, (2) its members would suffer injury from an adverse outcome in the election contest, and (3) the questions involved were of a public nature.In this case, the court held that the unincorporated association met these requirements where it is undisputed that the patients residing at CSH-Coalinga are in an area affected by the referendum vote on Measure C; the members of DACE would have been harmed in at least two ways if the election contest was successful; and the specific challenge of illegal votes raised in this election contest involves questions of a public nature. The court held that the trial court's analysis of DACE's right to intervene in the election contest in the order denying the motion for attorney fees did not accurately reflect California law governing an unincorporated association and (2) DACE qualified for permissive intervention. Furthermore, as a de facto intervenor and based on its unique contribution to the evidence and argument presented in the trial court, DACE qualified as a party for purposes of section 1021.5's "successful party" requirement. The court rejected the remaining contentions, reversing the order denying the motion for attorney fees. View "Vosburg v. County of Fresno" on Justia Law

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Appellants filed suit alleging that California's winner-take-all (WTA) approach to selecting its presidential electors violates the equal protection and First Amendment rights of California residents who, like appellants, usually do not vote for the State's popular vote winner and thus enjoy no representation among the State's electors.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that appellants' equal protection challenge is foreclosed by Williams v. Virginia State Board of Elections, a decades-old opinion that was summarily affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court. 288 F. Supp. 622 (E.D. Va. 1968), aff'd, 393 U.S. 320 (1969), reh'g denied, 393 U.S. 1112 (1969). The panel joined three sister circuits to have considered the issue in holding that, under Williams, a State's use of WTA to select its presidential electors is consistent with the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection.The panel also held that appellants have failed to plausibly allege that California's use of WTA to select presidential electors violates the First Amendment. The panel explained that, because appellants can participate fully in California's presidential election, including voting for their preferred candidates, their right to cast an effective vote is not burdened. Furthermore, WTA does not limit appellants' ability to associate with like-minded voters, and appellants do not allege any restrictions on their ability to petition. Even assuming that appellants had plausibly alleged that the State's use of WTA imposed some minimal burden, their claims would still fail. In this case, any burden is—at most—minimal, and California has identified an important interest: maximizing the impact of the State's electors within the Electoral College. View "Rodriguez v. Newsom" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part the decision of the superior court denying Appellant's challenge to the legal sufficiency of Shawnna Bolick's nomination documents, holding that, under the facts of this case, use of a private mailbox address substantially complied with the statutory requirements for petitions and nomination papers but not for circulator verifications on paper petition sheets.Appellant filed a complaint challenging Bolick's nomination petitions and nomination paper, arguing that Bolick did not comply with Ariz. Rev. Stat. 16-311(A), -314(C), and -315(B) because she used a private mailbox address as her place of residence. The superior court denied the challenge, finding that Bolick substantially complied with the applicable election laws because voters were unlikely to have been confused or misled by the technical error. The Supreme Court ordered that Bolick's name be included on the ballot, holding (1) Bolick substantially complied with section 16-311(A) and -314(C) under the facts of this case; and (2) Bolick did not substantially comply with section 16-315(B), and therefore, the signatures from the paper petition sheets circulated by Bolick were invalid. View "Lohr v. Bolick" on Justia Law

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In this challenge to the superior court's judgment on a petition for judicial review challenging a decision of the Secretary of State the Supreme Judicial Court held that execution of the judgment was automatically stayed on appeal.The superior court vacated the Secretary of State's determination that insufficient signatures had been collective to place on the November 2020 ballot a people's veto of An Act to Implement Ranked-choice Voting for Presidential Primary and General Elections in Maine. Appellants moved to stay execution of the judgment pending their appeals to the Supreme Judicial Court. The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed both motions to stay as moot, holding that execution of the judgment was automatically stayed upon appeal. View "Jones v. Secretary of State" on Justia Law