Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Election Law
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Plaintiffs Theresa Norelli, Christine Fajardo, Matt Gerding, and Palana Hunt-Hawkins, filed a complaint against the New Hampshire Secretary of State to challenge the constitutionality of New Hampshire’s current congressional districts. Plaintiffs contended the districts were rendered unconstitutionally malapportioned due to population shifts reported by the United States Census Bureau’s 2020 census. This case presented two preliminary questions for the New Hampshire Supreme Court’s review: (1) whether the current statute establishing a district plan for New Hampshire’s two congressional districts violated Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution; and (2) if so, whether the Supreme Court had to establish a new district plan if the legislature failed to do so “according to federal constitutional requisites in a timely fashion after having had an adequate opportunity to do so.” The Supreme Court answered the first question in the affirmative. In answering the second question, it determined that, upon a demonstrated legislative impasse, the Supreme Court had to establish a new district plan and, in doing so, it would apply the “least change” approach. View "Norelli, et al. v. New Hampshire Sec'y of State" on Justia Law

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An Alaska citizen filed an application to recall a member of the Anchorage Assembly, alleging that the assembly member had committed misconduct in office by participating in an indoor gathering of more than 15 people in violation of an executive order. The municipal clerk rejected the application after concluding that the alleged conduct did not constitute misconduct in office. The superior court reversed the clerk’s denial of the application. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the superior court’s decision. View "Jones v. Biggs" on Justia Law

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Florida Senate Bill 90 ("SB 90") imposed certain restrictions on citing. Plaintiffs challenged several provisions of SB 90, claiming the provisions violated the prohibition against race discrimination under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Plaintiffs also alleged the provisions were vague or overbroad in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments and that the provisions compelled speech in violation of the First Amendment. The district court found that SB 90 restricted the right to vote and permanently enjoined certain provisions of SB 90. The court also imposed a preclearance requirement under which Florida needed to obtain the district court's approval before enacting or amending certain election laws. Florida sought a stay of the district court's order pending its appeal.The Eleventh Circuit granted Florida's request to stay the district court's order pending appeal. The court noted that changing election laws as an election nears can cause voter confusion. Thus, Federal district courts ordinarily should not enjoin state election laws in the period close to an election. Here, a statewide election was less than four months away. Thus, Florida has a compelling interest in preserving the integrity of its election process.Applying the reasoning from Purcell v. Gonzalez, 549 U.S. 1 (2006), the court found that the state has a reduced burden to obtain a stay and only needs to show that Plaintiff's position is not "entirely clearcut." Thus, the court granted Florida's request for a stay pending appeal. View "Harriet Tubman Freedom Fighters Corp, et al v. Florida Secretary of State, et al" on Justia Law

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Two sets of electors who were dissatisfied with the Attorney General’s ballot title for Initiative Petition 34 (2022) (IP 34) petitioned the Oregon Supreme Court for review. IP 34 was directed at changing Oregon’s process for reapportioning legislative and congressional districts after each decennial census. Both petitions argued the ballot title did not substantially comply with the requirements of ORS 250.035. The Oregon Supreme Court agreed with some of the arguments raised in the petitions and, therefore, referred the ballot title to the Attorney General for modification. View "Mason/Turrill v. Rosenblum" on Justia Law

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C Davis sought to recall Washington Governor Jay Inslee. Davis filed five recall charges alleging that Governor Inslee violated the separation of powers, infringed on a number of constitutional rights, and improperly exercised emergency powers when issuing proclamations in response to the COVID -19 pandemic. In order to be placed on the ballot, a recall charge must be legally and factually sufficient to demonstrate an elected official’s malfeasance, misfeasance, or violation of the oath of office. The Washington Supreme Court held that the charges put forth by Davis were not legally or factually sufficient. View "In re Recall of Inslee" on Justia Law

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This action stemmed from the San Bernardino County registrar of voters (ROV) initially miscalculating the number of signatures needed in support of plaintiffs and real parties in interest’s (RPI) initiative petition to repeal a special tax associated with a fire protection zone. The ROV told RPI the incorrect number, resulting in RPI incurring unnecessary costs in obtaining far more signatures than were required. Defendants and Petitioners County of San Bernadino and its ROV, Bob Page, (collectively, the County) petitioned for a writ of mandate to direct the respondent trial court to vacate its order overruling the County’s demurrer and to enter an order sustaining the without leave to amend. The County contended that, when RPI requested the County to inform it of the number of signatures required for its initiative petition, the County did not owe RPI any statutory or constitutional duty to provide the information when requested. The County further argues it was immune from liability for communicating to RPI the incorrect number under Government Code sections 818.8 and 822.2. The Court of Appeal agreed that under Government Code sections 815 and 815.6, the County was not subject to liability because there was no breach of any statutory or constitutional duty. "[E]ven if the County owed RPI such a duty, the County was immune from liability under Government Code sections 818.8 and 822.2." The Court therefore concluded the trial court erred in overruling the County’s demurrer. View "County of San Bernardino v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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The November 2020 election included three seats on the five-member East Palo Alto City Council. Seven candidates ran. Lopez came in third, with Lincoln fourth. Lincoln filed a 14-page statement of contest, alleging Lopez violated Elections Code section 18370, by “ electioneering within 100 feet of a polling place”; and section 18522, “by offering valuable consideration to voters voting” by giving away free tacos (allowing a taco truck to block a handicap parking space). City clerk Solorzano filed an answer. Eleven witnesses testified, including Lincoln and Lopez; two San Mateo County Officials; several current and former City Council members; a person present at the polling site to conduct COVID-19 testing; a Lincoln supporter; and the owner of the taco truck.The court’s 23-page statement of decision concluded that Lincoln did not prove by clear and convincing evidence or a preponderance of the evidence that Lopez committed an offense against the elective franchise. The court of appeal affirmed. “Lincoln’s argument is based on a version of the record that is contrary to all principles of appellate review—not to mention that it fails to address the significance of the trial court’s conclusions as to his two primary claims.” The court awarded Lopez costs on appeal. View "Lincoln v. Lopez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals, which summarily affirmed the decision of the circuit court affirming the results of a referendum recount conducted pursuant to Wis. Stat. 9.01, holding that Wis. Stat. 7.54 does not apply when an appeal of the result of a recount by the board of canvassers is before an appellate court.On review, Petitioners - James Sewell and George Myers - argued that the Racine Unified School District Board of Canvassers mistakenly calculated the recount's vote totals and that Sewell had an absolute right under section 7.54 to have the ballots opened and reviewed in circuit court. The circuit court affirmed the Board of Canvassers' recount, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that while section 7.54 appears to provide an occasion to utilize its provisions in regard to a contested election, it did not apply in this case. View "Sewell v. Racine Unified School District Board of Canvassers" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied a writ of mandamus sought by Ray Brubaker to compel the Lawrence County Board of Elections to place a local liquor option on the primary-election ballot, holding that Brubaker failed to establish that he was entitled to the writ.Brubaker filed with the Board paperwork requesting a liquor option on the May 3, 2022 primary election ballot for the Hanging Rock precinct allowing Sunday liquor sales. The Board rejected the liquor-option petition because Brubaker did not submit a Form No. 5-N. Brubaker subsequently filed a complaint for a writ of mandamus against the Board. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that the Board did not abuse its discretion or act contrary to law. View "State ex rel. Brubaker v. Lawrence County Board of Elections" on Justia Law

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In the March 2020 primary election, McHenry Township voters rejected a proposition to dissolve the township. Months later, the township’s board of trustees adopted a resolution to place a nearly identical proposition on the November 2020 general election ballot. The McHenry County Clerk refused to place the proposition on the ballot, notifying the township that the proposition violated the statutory prohibition against “the same proposition” appearing on the ballot more than once within 23 months, 10 ILCS 5/28-7.The circuit court dismissed a mandamus petition. The appellate court reversed the dismissal, holding that, regardless of whether the proposition was prohibited from appearing on the November 2020 ballot, the clerk lacked the statutory authority to make that determination and was obligated to perform the ministerial act of placing the proposition on the ballot. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, noting that the township is no longer pursuing dissolution.Section 28-5 provides that a county clerk is authorized to give notice that the public question may not be placed on the ballot only when the question is prohibited by “the limitations of section 28-1.” The prohibition against placing the same proposition on the ballot more than once in 23 months is set forth in section 28- 7, not section 28-1. The court did not consider whether the proposition actually violated section 28-7. View "McHenry Township v. County of McHenry" on Justia Law