Articles Posted in Election Law

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Under Illinois law, a political party that has not attained sufficient votes in past elections must field candidates for all offices on the ballot in the political subdivision in which it wishes to compete. In the 2012 election, the Libertarian Party could field a candidate for Kane County auditor only if it also proposed candidates for six other offices. In its suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the Party argued that the full-slate requirement violated its right of political association under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The Seventh Circuit agreed, rejecting an argument that the requirement is justified by its interests in political stability, preventing ballot overcrowding, and avoiding voter confusion. The core of the fundamental right to political association is the right to band together in a political party to advance a policy agenda by electing the party’s members to office. That necessarily includes the candidates’ right to appear on the ballot under the party banner. For a minor party and its nominees, Illinois’s full-slate requirement extinguishes those rights unless the party fields candidates in races it may want no part of. This is a severe burden on fundamental constitutional rights. Illinois has not offered a compelling state interest to justify it. By incentivizing minor parties to manufacture frivolous candidacies, the full-slate requirement actually thwarts the interests Illinois invokes. View "Libertarian Party of Illinois v. Cunningham" on Justia Law

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The Republican Party sued the Cook County Board of Election Commissioners, arguing that the Board must include on the ballot a candidate that the Party slated for the House of Representatives in the November 2016 election. The Board had never announced a plan to exclude the candidate. The district court entered an injunction compelling the Board to keep this candidate on the ballot. The Seventh Circuit remanded with instructions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Party’s dispute with two additional defendants, elected as ward committeemen, based on the Party’s refusal to seat them, is not a federal claim. The Party’s “anticipatory federal contention,” that ”if state law does not respect the Party’s eligibility rules, then Illinois violates the First Amendment,” was only a potential response to a potential contention by the committeemen that all elected ward committeemen must be seated on the Party’s central committee. The district judge did not consider the fact that public officials were not contesting the Party’s claims or the possibility that he was issuing an advisory opinion. If the committeemen had sued the Party, demanding membership on its central committee, their claim would have arisen under Illinois law. View "Cook County Republican Party v. Sapone" on Justia Law

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Two-and-a-half months before the November 2016 general election, Harlan, the Republican Party’s candidate for an Illinois congressional seat, and the Crawford County Republican Central Committee filed suit, seeking a preliminary injunction against the implementation of a state law that allows voters to register and vote on Election Day itself. The law generally gives more options for same‐day registration and voting for residents of counties with populations of 100,000 or more than it does for those who live in smaller counties. The plaintiffs contended that the difference violated their rights under the Equal Protection Clause. The district court agreed with them and issued the injunction; the Seventh Circuit granted a stay of that injunction, then vacated the preliminary injunction altogether. The district court’s finding that voters would suffer irreparable harm was unsupported as was its application of strict scrutiny based on a finding that the burden on voters in the smaller counties was severe. Plaintiffs failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits. View "Harlan v. Orr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law

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Fitzpatrick, a citizen of Peru, had lived in the U.S. for three years when she applied for an Illinois driver’s license; she displayed her green card and her Peruvian passport, but checked a box claiming to be a U.S. citizen. As required by the motor-voter law, 52 U.S.C. 20503–06, the form contained a checkbox for registration as a voter. Fitzpatrick maintains that the clerk asked whether she wanted to register. She inquired “Am I supposed to?”; he replied: “It’s up to you.” She checked that box, was registered, and in 2006 twice voted in federal elections, violating 18 U.S.C. 611; 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(6), provides for the removal of aliens who vote in violation of the law. On her application for citizenship, Fitzpatrick, who is married to a U.S. citizen, and has three U.S.-citizen (naturalized) children, honestly described her voting history. The BIA affirmed an order of removal. The Seventh Circuit denied relief, rejecting an “entrapment by estoppel” defense. Fitzpatrick did not make accurate disclosures when applying. She is literate in English and has no excuse for that misrepresentation. No one told her that aliens are entitled to vote or to register to vote. Fitzpatrick had time after receiving her voter-registration card to determine whether she was entitled to vote. View "Fitzpatrick v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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The petitioners sought to place on the ballot a proposition that, if approved by the voters, would impose mayoral term limits. If approved, the proposition would prevent the incumbent mayor from running for reelection. The County Clerk refused to place the proposition on the ballot because Calumet City’s current administration already had placed three propositions on the ballot. State law, 10 ILCS 5/28‐1, permitted no more than three propositions in any single election. The administration’s ballot initiatives appeared to target specifically Alderman Jones, who had announced he was running for mayor. Jones and the petitioners sought injunctive relief, claiming violations of the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause, and the Illinois Constitution. The district court denied a preliminary injunction. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The request for injunctive relief was not timely and considerable harm would have been visited on the electoral system if the requested relief had been granted. There was evidence that the petitioners knew that the statute displaced their ballot initiative by the end of June, but delayed in filing suit until September 15. Jones’s individual claims were not ripe; Jones could not challenge the constitutionality of the propositions unless they were enacted by the referendum process. View "Jones v. Qualkinbush" on Justia Law

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In November 2012, 18 months before Indiana’s primary election, Common Cause sought a declaration that Indiana Code 33– 33–49–13 violated its members’ First Amendment right to cast a meaningful vote. The statute established the system for electing Marion Superior Court judges, providing that a political party could not nominate through the primary election more than half of the candidates eligible to sit on that court. Political parties eligible to hold primaries were those whose candidates for Indiana Secretary of State received at least 10 percent of the votes cast in the last general election; since 1952, only the Republican and Democratic parties have met that threshold, effectively limiting the candidates that could be selected by the voters. Marion County was the only place in the country to employ such a process. While the litigation was pending, Marion County held its primary election. There were 16 open Superior Court positions; eight Republican and 11 Democratic candidates (including plaintiffs) ran. Plaintiffs spent almost no effort campaigning and did poorly. The statute was declared unconstitutional before the general election. Plaintiffs sought a special election, to vindicate their constitutional rights. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment, holding that a special election was not appropriate, given the potential burdens on the county as weighed against plaintiffs’ interest in being placed on the ballot and the voters’ interest in casting a meaningful vote. View "Bowes v. Ind. Sec'y of State" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit denied petitions for initial hearing en banc in appeals concerning Wisconsin’s law requiring voters to have qualifying photo identification. The court noted that Wisconsin will start printing absentee ballots this month and that it is unlikely that qualified electors will be unable to vote under Wisconsin’s current procedures. The state had assured the court that temporary credentials will be available to all qualified persons who seek them. Wisconsin has enacted a rule that requires the Division of Motor Vehicles to mail automatically a free photo ID to anyone who comes to DMV one time and initiates the free ID process. No one must present documents, that, for some, have proved challenging to acquire; no one must show a birth certificate, or proof of citizenship, so the urgency needed to justify an initial en banc hearing has not been shown. The state adequately informed the general public of the plan and the district court​ has the authority to monitor compliance. View "One Wis. Inst., Inc. v. Thomsen" on Justia Law

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In 2011 Wisconsin enacted a statute requiring voters to present photographic identification. A federal district judge found violation of the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act and enjoined its application. The Seventh Circuit reversed. After the Supreme Court declined review, the state amended Act 23 to require acceptance of veterans’ IDs. The district court declined to address plaintiffs' remaining argument that some persons qualified to vote are entitled to relief because they face daunting obstacles to obtaining acceptable photo ID. The Seventh Circuit vacated in part; it did not previously hold that persons unable to get a photo ID with reasonable effort lack a serious grievance. The right to vote is personal and is not defeated by the fact that 99% of other people can secure the necessary credentials easily. Under Wisconsin’s law, people who do not have qualifying photo ID cannot vote, even if it is impossible for them to get such an ID. Plaintiffs want relief from that prohibition, not from the general application of Act 23. The district court should permit the parties to explore how the state’s system works today before considering plaintiffs’ remaining substantive contentions. View "Frank v. Walker" on Justia Law

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Smith was appointed to the Illinois House of Representatives to complete an unfinished term. During his campaign to be elected in his own right, his assistant, “Pete,” alerted the FBI that Smith might be corrupt. Pete began recording conversations. At the FBI’s suggestion, Pete told Smith that a constituent would provide $7,000 if Smith wrote a letter supporting her state grant application. There was no such woman; the money would come from the FBI. Smith wrote the letter and received $7,000. Smith used some of the money to pay campaign staff; a search of his home turned up the rest. At Smith’s trial for violating 18 U.S.C. 666(a)(1)(B) and 1951, the prosecutor introduced the recorded conversations with Pete. Neither side called Pete as a witness: he may have been stealing from the FBI. Pete said that he would not testify, asserting his constitutional self-incrimination privilege. The prosecutor did not seek use immunity; defense counsel did not call Pete to see whether the judge would honor his privilege assertion. Questioning why Smith did not raise the hearsay doctrine, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the conviction, rejecting an argument under the Confrontation Clause. If the statements are not hearsay, they are not testimonial. Smith was not convicted on hearsay or of out-of-court testimonial statements. Smith’s own words and deeds convicted him. View "United States v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Common Cause is a national organization that advocates for elimination of barriers to voting. ICommon Cause Indiana challenged the constitutionality of Indiana Code 33-33-49-13, which establishes the process for electing judges to the Marion Superior Court in Marion County. This system is unique in Indiana, as it is the only office where primary election voters do not vote for as many candidates as there are persons to be elected to that office in the general election. Common Cause contends that the procedure violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The district court and Seventh Circuit agreed.The statute burdens the right to cast a meaningful vote without sufficiently weighty interests to justify such a burden. In the context of partisan judicial elections, which the state has chosen to adopt as its preferred system for selecting judges for the Marion Superior Court, the asserted benefits and interests surrounding partisan balance do not justify the burden placed on the right to vote. View "Common Cause Ind. v. Individual Members of the Ind. Election Comm'n" on Justia Law