Articles Posted in Election Law

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Five voters filed suit against defendants, alleging that they had been disqualified in an election in violation of their rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Fifth Circuit held that this appeal presented a state election contest for a legislative seat and thus the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal. View "Keyes v. Gunn" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed and rendered the district court's permanent injunction enjoining Senate Bill 14 and 5, which concerned the state's former photo voter ID law. SB 14 generally required voters to present one of five forms of government-issued identification in order to vote at the polls. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's finding that SB 14 had an unlawful disparate impact on African American and Hispanic voters in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. However, the en banc court reversed and remanded. The district court then entered an interim remedy whereby in-person voters who lacked an SB 14 ID could cast a regular ballot upon completing a Declaration of Reasonable Impediment and presenting a specified form of identification. SB 5 was subsequently enacted as a legislative remedy to cure and replace SB 14. The district court subsequently entered a remedial order permanently enjoining SB 14 as well as SB 5, vacating the interim remedy, and reinstating the pre-SB 14 law that lacked any photo voter ID requirement. This court then granted the State's emergency motion and stayed the district court's orders until the final disposition of the appeal. The court held that the appeal was not moot and the district court's overreach in its remedial injunction and proceedings was an abuse of discretion meriting reversal. The court held that, under the circumstances of this case, the district court had no legal or factual basis to invalidate SB 5, and its contemplation of Section 3(c) of the VRA relief also failed. View "Veasey v. Abbott" 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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The Texas Legislature enacted SB 5 in 2016 to cure any statutory and constitutional violations related to SB 14 after Veasey v. Abbott, 830 F.3d 216 (5th Cir. 2016) (en banc). The district court permanently enjoined the enforcement of relevant sections of SB 14 and SB 5 and also enjoined upcoming elections under an interim order. The Fifth Circuit granted a stay pending appeal, stayed the district court's injunction orders, and stayed proceedings in the district court until a final disposition of this appeal. In this case, SB 5 allows voters without qualifying photo ID to cast regular ballots by executing a declaration that they face a reasonable impediment to obtaining qualifying photo ID. The court explained that this declaration is made under the penalty of perjury, and each of the 27 voters identified—whose testimony the plaintiffs used to support their discriminatory-effect claim—can vote without impediment under SB 5. The court held that the State has made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits because its reasonable-impediment procedure remedies plaintiffs' alleged harm and foreclosed plaintiffs' injunctive relief. The State has also made an adequate showing as to the other factors considered in determining a stay pending appeal. View "Veasey v. Abbott" on Justia Law

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The limitation on voter choice expressed in Tex. Elec. Code 61.033 impermissibly narrows the right guaranteed by Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act. In this case, OCA challenged the Texas voting law, which imposes a restriction on the interpretation assistance that English-limited voters may receive. The district court entered summary judgment for OCA and issued an injunction against Texas. After determining that it had jurisdiction, the Fifth Circuit held that the VRA validly abrogated state sovereign immunity; the Texas statute could not restrict the federally guaranteed right to the act of casting a ballot by enacting a statute tracking its language, then defining terms more restrictively than as federally defined; but the injunction exceeded the scope of the parties' presentation. Accordingly, the court vacated the injunction and remanded for the entry of a new injunction. The court affirmed in all other respects. View "OCA-Greater Houston v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the constitutionality and legality of Senate Bill 14 in 2011, which requires individuals to present one of several forms of photo identification in order to vote. The district court held that SB 14 was enacted with a racially discriminatory purpose, has a racially discriminatory effect, is a poll tax, and unconstitutionally burdens the right to vote. The court vacated the district court’s judgment that SB 14 was passed with a racially discriminatory purpose and remanded for further consideration of plaintiffs’ discriminatory purpose claims, using the proper legal standards and evidence; vacated the district court’s holding that SB 14 is a poll tax under the Fourteenth and Twenty-Fourth Amendments and rendered judgment for the State on this issue; the court need not and did not address whether SB 14 unconstitutionally burdens the right to vote under the First and Fourteenth Amendments; vacated the district court’s judgment on that issue and dismissed those claims; and affirmed the district court’s finding that SB 14 violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. 10301(a), through its discriminatory effects and remanded for consideration of the appropriate remedy. Finally, the court remanded with further instructions. View "Veasey v. Abbott" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Micah Phillips (then a 12-year veteran of the Dallas Fire Department) announced his candidacy in the Democratic primary for a seat on the Dallas County Commissioners Court. At that time, city laws prevented city employees from seeking office in any county overlapping the city of Dallas (as Dallas County did). The City subsequently terminated Phillips for violating those laws. This suit was dismissed on the pleadings by the district court, and Phillips challenged those laws both facially and as applied to him. Finding no reversible error, the Fifth Circuit affirmed. View "Phillips v. City of Dallas" on Justia Law

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Leading up to the 2012 state Senate elections in Texas, Texas failed to gain preclearance of its recently enacted Senate redistricting plan as required under then-existing law. Because Texas’s new plan had not been precleared, Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit and successfully blocked the plan for the 2012 elections. A three-judge district court panel in San Antonio enjoined Texas’s plan and ordered an interim plan in its place. But after the election, the Supreme Court held that the Voting Rights Act’s coverage formula, which automatically subjected Texas to the preclearance requirement, was unconstitutional. Regardless, after the Court’s decision, Texas repealed the contested redistricting plan and adopted the court-imposed plan in its place, thus mooting Plaintiffs’ lawsuit. The district court then awarded Plaintiffs attorneys’ fees and costs. Texas appealed the award of costs. Because the Fifth Circuit concluded that the district court erroneously characterized Plaintiffs as prevailing parties, the Fifth Circuit reversed. View "Davis v. Abbott" on Justia Law

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This case involves a challenge to Mississippi's disclosure requirements for ballot initiatives proposing amendments to the state constitution. Plaintiffs, Mississippi citizens, contend that the disclosure requirements impermissibly burden their First Amendment rights. The district court agreed and enjoined Mississippi from enforcing the requirements against small groups and individuals expending "just in excess of" Mississippi's $200 disclosure threshold. The court concluded that plaintiffs have standing where they have shown that they have a legitimate fear of criminal penalties for failure to comply with Chapter 17 of the Mississippi Code's disclosure requirements; plaintiffs' as-applied challenge, asserted both as a collective group and by each plaintiff individually, failed because the record is bereft of facts that would allow the court to assume that plaintiffs intend to raise "just in excess of" $200 as a group or as individuals; the requirements that Mississippi has enacted under Chapter 17 survive plaintiffs' facial challenge under the exacting scrutiny standard where the government has identified a sufficiently important government interest in its disclosure scheme to have an interest in knowing who is lobbying for Mississippians' vote, and is substantially related to this informational interest; and, therefore, the court reversed the district court's order and rendered judgment in favor of defendants were plaintiffs' as-applied and facial constitutional challenges failed. View "Justice, Jr., et al. v. Hosemann, et al." on Justia Law

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This case arose from a dispute between plaintiffs, seven elected officials and one citizen, and Galveston County, challenging the County's redistricting following the 2010 census. At issue was whether plaintiffs were the prevailing parties, entitling them to attorney's fees. The court reversed and remanded the district court's award of fees, holding that plaintiffs were not prevailing parties because the injunctive relief plaintiffs achieved was not material to the outcome of the case and, alternatively, nor did this relief directly or materially benefit plaintiffs. View "Petteway, et al. v. Henry, et al." on Justia Law