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At issue was whether the public interest that elections remain free from voter intimidation and coercion in this certification election was sufficient to outweigh the public interest in favor of openness of public records. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the circuit court that granted summary judgment to Madison Teachers, Inc. (MTI) on its claim that the public records law was violated by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC). WERC denied MTI’s requests, made at various times during the 2015 certification elections, for names of Madison Metropolitan School District employees who had voted as of those dates based on the WERC chairman’s determination that the public interest that elections remain free from voter intimidation and coercion outweighed the public interest. In reversing the circuit court, the Supreme Court held that the chairman lawfully performed the balancing test in concluding that the public interest in elections free from voter intimidation and coercion outweighed the public interest in favor of openness of public records. View "Madison Teachers, Inc. v. Scott" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former Austin City Councilmember, filed suit challenging four provisions of Austin's campaign-finance law: a base limit on contributions to candidates; an aggregate limit on contributions from persons outside of the Austin area; a temporal restriction prohibiting all contributions before the six months leading up to an election; and a disgorgement provision requiring candidates to distribute excess campaign funds remaining at the end of an election. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision upholding the base limit; holding that plaintiff lacked standing to challenge the aggregate limit because he had not established a sufficient injury-in-fact traceable to that limit; holding that Austin had failed to establish that the six-month temporal limit on fundraising served the interest of preventing actual corruption or its appearance; and holding that plaintiff had standing to challenge the disgorgement provision and the disgorgement provision was unconstitutional. View "Zimmerman v. Austin, Texas" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former Austin City Councilmember, filed suit challenging four provisions of Austin's campaign-finance law: a base limit on contributions to candidates; an aggregate limit on contributions from persons outside of the Austin area; a temporal restriction prohibiting all contributions before the six months leading up to an election; and a disgorgement provision requiring candidates to distribute excess campaign funds remaining at the end of an election. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision upholding the base limit; holding that plaintiff lacked standing to challenge the aggregate limit because he had not established a sufficient injury-in-fact traceable to that limit; holding that Austin had failed to establish that the six-month temporal limit on fundraising served the interest of preventing actual corruption or its appearance; and holding that plaintiff had standing to challenge the disgorgement provision and the disgorgement provision was unconstitutional. View "Zimmerman v. Austin, Texas" on Justia Law

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Alliance for a Safe and Independent Woodmen Hills bought ads and social-media coverage in an election. Campaign Integrity Watchdog filed a complaint with the Colorado Secretary of State against Alliance, alleging that Alliance failed to comply with Colorado’s campaign-finance laws requiring political committees to report contributions and expenditures. An Administrative Law Judge, or ALJ, ultimately ordered Alliance to pay fines and register as a political committee. Alliance appealed the campaign-finance decision and defended itself in a related defamation suit, racking up hundreds of dollars in court costs and thousands in legal fees. Alliance didn’t report those legal expenses. Watchdog filed another campaign-finance complaint; the ALJ concluded that the legal expenses were not reportable as expenditures but were reportable as contributions. Nonetheless, it ruled that the contribution-reporting requirement was unconstitutional as applied to Alliance for its post-election legal expenses. Watchdog appealed the ALJ’s determinations regarding the reporting requirements, and the court of appeals asked the Colorado Supreme Court to take the appeal directly under C.A.R. 50. After its review, the Supreme Court affirmed the ALJ’s decision that the legal expenses were not expenditures but were contributions under Colorado law. However, the Court reversed the ALJ’s determination that the reporting requirement was unconstitutional as applied to Alliance for its legal expenses: “The Supreme Court of the United States has consistently upheld disclosure and reporting requirements for political committees that exist primarily to influence elections. It makes no difference here that the contributions were not used to directly influence an election - any contribution to a political committee that has the major purpose of influencing an election is deemed to be campaign related and thus justifies the burden of disclosure and reporting.” Accordingly, the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the ALJ’s decision in part and reversed in part. View "Campaign Integrity Watchdog v. Alliance for a Safe and Independent" on Justia Law

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Jonathan Anderson, a lawyer, filed a termination report for Coloradans for a Better Future without requiring payment for his legal work, and “Better Future” didn’t report his service as a contribution. Campaign Integrity Watchdog complained to Colorado’s Secretary of State that Better Future should have done so. An Administrative Law Judge, or ALJ, dismissed Watchdog’s complaint on the merits. The court of appeals reversed in part, holding that Anderson’s service counted as a “contribution” to Better Future as the term was defined in section 1-45-103(6), C.R.S. (2017), of the Fair Campaign Practices Act (“FCPA”). The court reasoned that if the service was donated, it was a “gift” under section 1-45-103(6)(c)(I). If it was billed but not paid, it was an undercompensated service under section 1-45-103(6)(b). Either way, the service constituted a reportable contribution under the FCPA. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded the uncompensated legal services at issue here were not “contributions” to a political organization under Colorado’s campaign-finance laws. Accordingly, the court of appeals erred in holding that Better Future was required to report Anderson’s donated legal services. View "Coloradans for a Better Future v. Campaign Integrity Watchdog" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, the Attorney General of the State of California, sought a peremptory writ of mandate directing respondent Superior Court of Sacramento Country to vacate its order requiring that he rescind the circulating title and summary he prepared for a proposed 2018 ballot initiative measure to repeal portions of Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, and replace it with the title and summary approved by the court. The court ruled the circulating materials prepared by the Attorney General were confusing, misleading, and likely to create prejudice against the proposed measure. After the Attorney General filed his writ petition with the Court of Appeal court, and initial opposition was filed by the real party in interest Travis Allen, the Court of Appeal issued an order to preserve its jurisdiction, staying the superior court’s ruling and any proceedings thereon, pending further order of the Court of Appeal. Having reviewed the petition and opposition thereto, the Court of Appeal concluded the language prepared by the Attorney General, contrary to the findings of the respondent court, did not mislead the voters or create prejudice against the measure. Consequently, there was no legal or factual basis for respondent court’s interference with the Attorney General’s exercise of his statutory duties. The Court issued the preemptory writ of mandate and continued the stay order pending finality of this decision. View "Becerra v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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Petitioner, the Attorney General of the State of California, sought a peremptory writ of mandate directing respondent Superior Court of Sacramento Country to vacate its order requiring that he rescind the circulating title and summary he prepared for a proposed 2018 ballot initiative measure to repeal portions of Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, and replace it with the title and summary approved by the court. The court ruled the circulating materials prepared by the Attorney General were confusing, misleading, and likely to create prejudice against the proposed measure. After the Attorney General filed his writ petition with the Court of Appeal court, and initial opposition was filed by the real party in interest Travis Allen, the Court of Appeal issued an order to preserve its jurisdiction, staying the superior court’s ruling and any proceedings thereon, pending further order of the Court of Appeal. Having reviewed the petition and opposition thereto, the Court of Appeal concluded the language prepared by the Attorney General, contrary to the findings of the respondent court, did not mislead the voters or create prejudice against the measure. Consequently, there was no legal or factual basis for respondent court’s interference with the Attorney General’s exercise of his statutory duties. The Court issued the preemptory writ of mandate and continued the stay order pending finality of this decision. View "Becerra v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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In 1987, African‐Americans filed suit against Chicago Heights, alleging dilution of voting opportunity. The election practices at issue were found to violate the Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. 10101. Appellants split from other class plaintiffs and objected to the first consent decree; they have been the main opposition to proposed remedies. In 2010, the district court entered a consent decree, establishing a seven‐ward, single aldermanic form of government; including a ward map that complied with constitutional requirements; and requiring the city to reapportion the wards as the population changed. The subsequent 2010 census showed that the wards’ populations had changed, requiring reapportionment. After public comment, the city approved its redrawn ward map and sought approval of that map. Appellants objected and sought leave to file their own map for implementation by the court. The court held that the Decree gave the city the exclusive right to reapportion the wards. The city’s map still contained seven wards, each with an individual population deviation of less than 10 percent. However, the overall deviation was 12.65%. The Seventh Circuit affirmed that the proposed map is constitutional. The city presented sufficient justification and made a good faith effort to reapportion the map with the smallest population deviations practicable, using legitimate and nondiscriminatory objectives, such as maintaining historical and natural boundary lines where possible, and easing voter confusion by redrawing unusual boundaries. View "McCoy v. Chicago Heights Election Commission" on Justia Law

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The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) requires states to permit "overseas voters" to vote by absentee ballot in federal elections, 52 U.S.C. 20302(a)(1). An “overseas voter” resides outside the U.S. and would otherwise be qualified to vote in the last place in which the person was domiciled in the U.S. Illinois law provides that “[a]ny non‐resident civilian citizen, otherwise qualified to vote," may vote by mail in a federal election. "Non‐resident civilian citizens" reside “outside the territorial limits" of the U.S. but previously maintained a residence in Illinois and are not registered to vote in any other state. Former Illinois residents, now residing in the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands, challenged the laws as violating their equal protection rights and their right to travel protected by the Due Process Clause. The territories where the plaintiffs reside are considered part of the U.S. under the statutes, while other territories are not. The district court held that there was a rational basis for the inclusion of some territories but not others in the definition. The Seventh Circuit affirmed with respect to the Illinois statute but concluded that plaintiffs lack standing to challenge the UOCAVA, which does not prevent Illinois from providing the plaintiffs absentee ballots and does not cause their injury. The plaintiffs are not entitled to ballots under state law. View "Segovia v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2014, voters approved an amendment to the Tennessee Constitution making clear that the Constitution is not to be construed as securing or protecting a right to abortion or requiring funding of an abortion (Amendment 1). Plaintiffs, individual voters, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, asserting that, in counting the votes on Amendment 1, state officials incorrectly interpreted Article XI, Section 3 of the Tennessee Constitution, which states: if the people shall approve and ratify such amendment or amendments by a majority of all the citizens of the State voting for Governor, voting in their favor, such amendment or amendments shall become a part of this Constitution. The district court ordered the state officials to recount the votes in accordance with plaintiffs’ proposed interpretation. The Sixth Circuit reversed. A state-court declaratory judgment on the meaning of Article XI, Section 3 is entitled to conclusive effect and the method of counting votes employed by state officials in 2014 was faithful to the actual meaning of the provision. This is not the “exceptional case” that warrants federal intervention in a lawful state election. There was no cognizable infringement of plaintiffs’ due process rights; plaintiffs failed to identify how their right to vote was burdened by disparate treatment. View "George v. Hargett" on Justia Law