Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Election Law
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Weiser, a Republican donor and chair of the Michigan Republican Party (MRP), and the MRP alleged that an interpretative statement (recall exemption) and a declaratory ruling issued by the Michigan Secretary of State in the 1980s violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments by allowing supporters of Governor Whitmer to make or receive contributions on more favorable terms than Weiser or the MRP with respect to the 2022 gubernatorial election. The Michigan Campaign Finance Act (MCFA) limits donations to candidates. The recall exceptions clarify that the general election contribution limits do not apply to contributions made to an officeholder to defend against a recall effort. During a recall effort, the officeholder’s committee may “accept contributions in excess of section [169.252’s] contribution limitations.” Contributions made during an active recall effort must be so designated and must be deposited into the committee’s account. If a recall election never materializes, the committee must divest itself of these contributions. In 2020 and 2021, apparently in response to measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, 27 recall efforts were launched by Michigan voters. Whitmer’s committee collected and subsequently disgorged leftover recall funds, refunding $250,000 to an individual donor and about $3.5 million to the Democratic Party.The district court dismissed the action for lack of standing. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Weiser and the MRP fail to plausibly demonstrate that the recall exception prevents Weiser or the MRP from equally supporting their preferred gubernatorial candidate. View "Weiser v. Benson" on Justia Law

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Jared Hendrix, as chairman of the North Dakota for Term Limits Sponsoring Committee, and North Dakota for Term Limits (collectively, “Petitioners” or “Committee”) petitioned for a writ of mandamus requiring the Secretary of State to place the Term Limits Initiative on the November 8, 2022, general election ballot. The Secretary of State rejected 29,101 signatures on circulated petitions and concluded the initiative did not qualify for placement on the ballot. The Petitioners argued the Secretary of State improperly invalidated signatures on the basis of a finding of notary fraud relating to two circulators, a pattern of notary fraud relating to one notary, violation of the pay-per-signature ban, and other issues. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the Secretary of State misapplied the law by excluding signatures on the basis of a determination that a pattern of likely notary violations on some petitions permitted his invalidation of all signatures on all petitions that were sworn before the same notary. Because adding the signatures invalidated for imputed fraud to the 17,265 other signatures accepted by the Secretary of State places the initiative over the constitutional requirement of 31,164, the Supreme Court granted the Committee’s petition and issued a writ of mandamus requiring the Secretary of State to place the Term Limits Initiative on the November 8, 2022, ballot. View "Hendrix, et al. v. Jaeger" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the circuit court denying Petitioner's complaint seeking an injunction and declaratory relief to enjoin a student member on the Board of Education of Howard County from exercising any voting power and a declaration that the election process for the student member violates the Maryland Constitution, holding that there was no error.After relying on remote learning for schooling during the Covid-19 pandemic, at the end of 2020, the Board of Education of Howard County held votes on motions to resume in-person instruction. Each motion failed by a stalemate vote, with the student member causing the stalemate. After the Board decided to continue with remote learning Petitioners brought this action seeking an injunction and a declaration that the statute creating the student member on the Board is unconstitutional. The circuit court granted summary judgment for the Board, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the provisions of section 3-701 of the Education Article concerning the student member position on the Board do not violate the Maryland Constitution. View "Spiegel v. Board of Education of Howard County" on Justia Law

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Adrian Perkins, the then-current mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana, sought reelection to that office. On July 22, 2022, Perkins signed and filed a notice of candidacy form, as required by La. R.S. 18:461 to become a candidate in a primary election. The requirements for the notice of candidacy set forth in La. R.S. 18:463 include a requirement that the candidate certify nine items. It was undisputed Perkins signed the form certifying all required statements and that his certification as to Item 8 on the notice of candidacy form, was incorrect. Perkins has two residences–Stratmore Circle and Marshall Street– both within the city of Shreveport. Although Perkins was registered to vote at the Stratmore Circle address at the time of his qualification, it was undisputed he maintained a homestead exemption at the Marshall Street residence. The two residences were in different voting precincts. Francis Deal, a qualified elector, filed a “Petition in Objection to Candidacy” asserting Perkins’ false certification on the notice of candidacy form disqualified him from being a candidate for mayor pursuant to La. R.S. 18:492. Deal also asserted that pursuant to La. R.S. 18:101(B), Perkins was required to be registered to vote in the precinct where he claimed his homestead exemption, and his failure to do so caused him to be an unqualified elector and candidate. After considering the evidence, the district court disqualified Perkins as a candidate in the primary election for the office of the Mayor of the city of Shreveport. The Louisiana Supreme Court reversed, holding that only those false certifications specifically listed in La. R.S. 18:492(A)(5) through (7) constituted grounds for objecting to a candidate. Because the certification at issue in this case was not specifically listed in La. R.S. 18:492, it could not serve as a basis to disqualify the candidate here. View "Deal v. Perkins et al." on Justia Law

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court considered a question of whether the General Assembly overstepped its constitutional authority by enacting legislation that allowed for universal mail-in voting. Among other things, "Act 77" effected major amendments to the Pennsylvania Election Code, including universal, state-wide mail-in voting. On November 21, 2020, eight petitioners – including a Republican congressman and Republican candidates for the United States House of Representatives and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives – filed a petition for review with the Commonwealth Court seeking to halt the certification of the 2020 General Election, and including a facial challenge to the portions of Act 77 that established universal mail-in voting. The Supreme Court exercised extraordinary jurisdiction over the matter, and found a “complete failure to act with due diligence in commencing [the] facial constitutional challenge, which was ascertainable upon Act 77’s enactment[,]” as the petitioners waited until the ballots from the General Election were in the process of being tallied, and the results were becoming apparent, to raise their claim. Thus, the Court found the claim barred by the doctrine of laches. The Court found no restriction in the Pennsylvania Constitution on the General Assembly's ability to create universal mail-in voting. View "McLinko v. Penna. Dept. of State, et al." on Justia Law

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The Municipal Election Commission of the town of Goodman, Mississippi (the Commissioners), rejected David Simmons’s Candidate Petition for the Municipal Office of Mayor of Goodman, Mississippi. After conducting an investigation into Simmons’s residency and voting history, the Commissioners rejected his petition due to his not having satisfied the residency requirement prior to the election date. Simmons appealed a circuit court's decision upholding the Commissioners’ decision to reject his petition, arguing the trial court’s decision was manifestly against the weight of the evidence because he had provided evidence of his physical presence in Goodman and of his intention to reside there permanently. Simmons also asserted he had provided evidence that rebutted the homestead exemption presumption. The Mississippi Supreme Court found the trial court did not commit manifest error by determining that Simmons had not proved that he had been domiciled in Goodman for the time prescribed by Mississippi Code Section 23-15-300(1), which was “two (2) years immediately preceding the day of election.” Miss. Code Ann. § 23-15-300(1) (Supp. 2021). View "Simmons v. Town of Goodman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied the claims brought by Erik Jones in this expedited election case, holding that Jones was not entitled to a writ of mandamus based on the doctrine of laches.Jones filed a declaration of candidacy and petition to appear on the August 2, 2022 primary ballot as a candidate for the Republican Party State Central Committee, but the Lorain County Board of Elections did not certify his name to the ballot based on the instructions in Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose's Directive 2022-34 to reject declarations and petitions filed after February 2, 2022 by state-central-committee-member candidates. Jones subsequently sought a writ of mandamus compelling LaRose to instruct the county boards of elections to accept declarations of candidacy filed before May 4, 2022. The Supreme Court denied the claims, holding that Jones's unreasonable delay in bringing this lawsuit resulted in prejudice to the Board in its administration of the election. View "State ex rel. Jones v. LaRose" on Justia Law

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Frederick Burkes, Sr. appealed a circuit court judgment entered in favor of James Franklin in an action initiated by Burkes. In March 2020, Burkes defeated Franklin, the incumbent, in a primary election for the office of constable for District 59 in Jefferson County, Alabama. Burkes was unopposed in the general election and was declared and certified as the winner of the election on Friday, November 13, 2020. Thereafter, Franklin sent a letter to the Jefferson Probate Court informing the probate court that Burkes had not filed an official bond within 40 days of the declaration of Burkes's election to the office of constable. The probate court notified the Governor that the bond had not been posted, making the office vacated by operation of law. The Governor thereafter appointed Franklin to the office of constable for District 59. On April 22, 2021, Burkes, acting pro se, initiated this action, which he identified as a quo warranto action, with the circuit court. Burkes alleged in his complaint that he had been sworn into the office of constable on January 4, 2021, and that he had filed an official bond on December 31, 2020, which he contended was timely pursuant to § 36-23- 4, Ala. Code 1975. Also acting pro se, Franklin filed an "answer" in which he also moved for a "summary judgment." In summary, Franklin asserted that Burkes had vacated the office of constable by failing to comply with the pertinent statutory procedure concerning the payment of official bonds. Franklin requested, among other things, that Burkes be ordered to cease and desist all activities concerning the office of constable and that Burkes's quo warranto action be "dismissed with prejudice." The Alabama Supreme Court found that Burkes's failure to give the circuit court security for the costs of this action deprived the circuit court of subject-matter jurisdiction over the action. Because the circuit court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over this action, its judgment was void. Because a void judgment will not support an appeal, this appeal was dismissed. View "Burkes v. Franklin" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning two documents created by employees of the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) that authorized municipal clerks and local election officials to establish ballot drop boxes the Supreme Court held that the documents were invalid because ballot drop boxes are illegal under Wisconsin statutes.Two Wisconsin voters brought this action challenging the validity of the documents, arguing, among other things, that, under Wisconsin statutes, drop boxes are illegal. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) an absentee ballot must be returned by mail or the voter must personally deliver it to the municipal clerk at the clerk's officer or a designated alternate site, not an inanimate object; and (2) therefore, the documents were invalid. View "Teigen v. Wisconsin Elections Commission" on Justia Law

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In November 2017, Michele Yamakaitis, the nominee of the Democratic Party, was re-elected to a three-year term as the councilmember representing the 8th Ward to the City of Linden Municipal Council (City Council). One year later, Yamakaitis was elected council president, and she resigned as councilmember to assume her new role. On the day of her resignation, the Linden city clerk forwarded a letter to Nicholas Scutari, Chairman of the Linden Democratic Committee, alerting him to the process for filling the 8th Ward vacancy. Chairman Scutari advised the city clerk that the Democratic Committee had met and selected three candidates, including Paul Coates, Jr., to fill the vacant seat. The City Council rejected all three candidates submitted by the Linden Democratic Committee and adopted a Resolution to leave the 8th Ward seat vacant until the next general election, a position the mayor supported. The Democratic Committee voted and swore in Coates to serve as the councilmember representing the 8th Ward, citing N.J.S.A. 40A:16-11 as the authority for that action. The City Council then exercised “[its] right under [N.J.S.A. 40A:16-5(b)] to maintain a vacancy in the 8th Ward,” and declined to recognize Coates as councilmember. In February 2019, Coates and the Democratic Committee filed suit alleging that defendants -- the City and City Council -- had violated the Municipal Vacancy Law, N.J.S.A. 40A:16-1 to -23, by refusing to seat Coates as councilmember. The Chancery Court agreed and voided the Resolution to keep the seat vacant and directed that Coates be seated as the 8th Ward councilmember. Defendants appealed, challenging the court’s findings under both the Vacancy Law, and Coates and the Democratic Committee cross-appealed to uphold the Chancery Court's decision. The Appellate Division reversed the Chancery Division’s orders, determining that the City Council had the authority under N.J.S.A. 40A:16-5 to decline to fill the vacancy. The New Jersey Supreme Court found that in amending in 1990 Sections 11 and 13 of the Municipal Vacancy Law, the Legislature removed the governing body’s discretion to keep vacant a seat previously occupied by a nominee of a political party. "Section 11 mandates that the governing body choose one of the municipal committee’s three nominees." View "Linden Democratic Committee v. City of Linden " on Justia Law