Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Election Law

By
Arizona enacted a statute, Ariz. Rev. Stat. 16-122, 16-135, 16-584, in 1970, which required each voter who votes in person to cast his or her ballot at the precinct polling station at which the voter was registered to vote. Plaintiff and others challenge the precinct vote rule on the grounds that it violated the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), 52 U.S.C. 10301, and unjustifiably burdened their election rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. After the district court denied plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction, plaintiff filed an emergency appeal. The court found that the precinct vote rule, as administered by Arizona, probably does not impermissibly burden minority voters by giving them less opportunity than non-minorities to participate in the political process. But even assuming, without deciding, that it imposes a cognizable burden on minority voters, plaintiff has not shown that Arizona’s enactment of the precinct vote rule is linked to social and historical conditions that have or currently produce racial discrimination against minority voters. Therefore, the court found that the district court correctly denied relief for the claimed violation of the VRA. The court also affirmed the district court's finding that the constitutional violation claims failed because the precinct vote rule, when considered together with other options available to Arizona voters, imposes only a minimal burden upon minority and majority voters. The court explained that such a minimal burden is sufficiently justified by Arizona’s interests in effective administration of voting in the State. View "Feldman v. Arizona Secretary of State's Office" on Justia Law

By
Leslie Feldman and others filed suit challenging Arizona House Bill 2023 (H.B. 2023), which precludes individuals who do not fall into one of several exceptions (e.g., election officials, mail carriers, family members, household members, and specified caregivers) from collecting early ballots from another person. Plaintiff argues that this state statute violates section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 52 U.S.C. 10301, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the First Amendment because, among other things, it disproportionately and adversely impacts minorities, unjustifiably burdens the right to vote, and interferes with the freedom of association. The district court denied plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction and plaintiff filed this emergency interlocutory appeal. The court concluded that it has jurisdiction over this interlocutory appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1292(a)(1). The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding plaintiff was unlikely to succeed on her Voting Rights Act claim. In this case, the district court did not clearly err in concluding that plaintiff adduced no evidence showing that H.B. 2023 would have an impact on minorities different than the impact on non-minorities, let alone that the impact would result in less opportunity for minorities to participate in the political process as compared to non-minorities. The court concluded that the district court did not clearly err in finding that H.B. 2023 imposed a minimal burden on voters’ Fourteenth Amendment right to vote, in finding that Arizona asserted sufficiently weighty interests justifying the limitation, and in ultimately concluding that plaintiff failed to establish that she was likely to succeed on the merits of her Fourteenth Amendment challenge. The court also concluded that ballot collection is not expressive conduct implicating the First Amendment, but even if it were, Arizona has an important regulatory interest justifying the minimal burden that H.B. 2023 imposes on freedom of association. Therefore, the district court did not err in concluding that the plaintiff was unlikely to succeed on the merits of her First Amendment claim. In this case, plaintiff is not only unlikely to prevail on the merits, but, as the district court concluded, her interest in avoiding possible irreparable harm does not outweigh Arizona’s and the public’s mutual interests in the enforcement of H.B. 2023 pending final resolution of this case. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction. View "Feldman v. Arizona Secretary of State's Office" on Justia Law

By
After the Party failed to meet the deadline for recognition as an official political party on the 2014 Arizona ballot, it challenges the constitutionality of Arizona’s filing deadline for new party petitions, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The Party claims that by requiring "new" parties to file recognition petitions 180 days before the primary, Arizona unconstitutionally burdens those parties’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The court concluded that, without evidence of the specific obstacles to ballot access that the deadline imposes, the Party did not establish that its rights are severely burdened. Moreover, the court concluded that, at best, any burden is de minimus. Finally, after the court balanced the impact of the 180-day filing deadline on the Party's rights against Arizona's interests - administering orderly elections - in maintaining that deadline, the court concluded that the Party has not demonstrated an unconstitutional interference with ballot access. View "Arizona Green Party v. Reagan" on Justia Law

By
The Party brought a facial First Amendment challenge to Hawaii’s open primary system, seeking to limit the participants in its primary elections to its formal members or to voters who are otherwise willing publicly to declare their support for the Party. The Party claims that Hawaii’s open primary system, which allows registered voters to participate in any party’s primary without formally joining or declaring support for that party, severely burdens the Party’s associational rights. Under Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit precedent, the court concluded that the extent of the burden that a primary system imposes on associational rights is a factual question on which the plaintiff bears the burden of proof. In this case, the court concluded that the Party's preference for limiting primary participants to registered Party members, coupled with the fact that more people vote in Democratic primaries than are formally registered with the Party, is not sufficient to show that Hawaii’s open primary system severely burdens the Party’s associational rights. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Democratic Party of Hawaii v. Nago" on Justia Law

By
Plaintiffs, five Tucson voters and a non-profit corporation called PIA, filed suit challenging the constitutionality of Tucson’s hybrid system for electing members of its city council. The Supreme Court has held that the primary and general elections are a “single instrumentality for choice of officers.” Because the primary and general elections are two parts of a “unitary” process, a citizen’s right to vote in the general election may be meaningless unless he is also permitted to vote in the primary. Because the constituency of the representative to be elected remains static throughout the election process, the geographical unit must also remain static throughout that process. In this case, such mismatches between voters at different stages of a single election cycle are not constitutionally permissible. The court concluded that the practical effect of the Tucson system is to give some of a representative’s constituents - those in his home ward - a vote of disproportionate weight. The court held that every otherwise eligible voter who will be a constituent of the winner of the general election must have an equal opportunity to participate in each election cycle through which that candidate is selected. Because all Tucsonans have an equal interest in determining who the nominees will be, the city may not exclude out-of-ward voters from the primaries. Thus, the court rejected the city's final argument that the hybrid system is a reasonable “residency restriction” on the right to vote. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment in favor of the city. View "Public Integrity Alliance v. City of Tucson" on Justia Law

By
Plaintiffs, three civil rights organizations, filed suit alleging that Nevada violated, and continues to violate, Section 7 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), 52 U.S.C. 20506(a)(2)(A). Section 7 requires states to distribute voter registration materials and to make assistance available to people who visit, and make certain requests of, public assistance offices. The district court dismissed the complaint with prejudice. The court concluded, however, that plaintiffs have Article III standing by plausibly alleging they have suffered injury in fact fairly traceable to the State’s noncompliance with Section 7 of the NVRA. The court also concluded that plaintiffs have also satisfied the statute’s notice requirement in two ways. First, they notified the State that violations were occurring 120 days before an election, thus authorizing them to file suit after waiting 20 days from the date of their notification. Second, they plausibly alleged that the State was violating Section 7 within 30 days of a federal election, thus permitting them to file suit without first notifying the State (even though plaintiffs in fact had done so). Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. The court denied as moot plaintiffs' motion for judicial notice and instructed the district court to assign the case to a different district judge. View "Nat'l Council of La Raza v. Cegavske" on Justia Law

By
A-1 filed suit challenging the constitutionality of four provisions of Hawaii's campaign finance laws under Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. On appeal, A-1 challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Commission. The court concluded that Hawaii’s expenditure and noncandidate committee definitions in HRS 11-302 are not vague given the Commission’s narrowing construction; Hawaii's advertising definition in HRS 11-302 is not unconstitutionally vague; the noncandidate committee reporting and disclosure requirements survive exacting scrutiny as applied to A-1 where they were substantially related to Hawaii's important interest in informing the electorate, preventing corruption or its appearance, and avoiding the circumvention of valid campaign finance laws; the disclaimer requirement for advertisements is constitutional under Citizens United; A-1 lacks standing to challenge the electioneering communications reporting requirements; the contractor contribution ban is constitutional even as applied to contributions to legislators who neither award nor oversee contracts; and individual Plaintiffs Yamada and Stewart are entitled to attorney's fees. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment on the merits, but vacated the fee award, referring the matter to the Appellate Commissioner with instructions. View "A-1 A-Lectrician v. Snipes" on Justia Law

By
In 2011, the Arizona Legislature enacted a new law requiring voter registration forms to list the two largest parties, as well as provide a blank line for “other party preferences.” See Ariz. Rev. Stat. 16-152(A)(5). The Arizona Green Party, the Arizona Libertarian Party, and three of their members (together, Plaintiffs) brought this action alleging that the new voter registration form violated their rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments because the form failed to “treat equally the four parties with Statewide continuing ballot access.” The district court granted summary judgment for the State. A panel of the Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs failed to meet their burden of establishing that section 16-152(A)(5) is not rationally related to a legitimate state interest. View "Ariz. Libertarian Party v. Bennett" on Justia Law

By
Two associations and two individuals brought this action under 42 U.S.C. 1983 challenging two requirements that the State of California and the City of Chula Vista, California, place on persons who wish to sponsor a local ballot measure: (1) the requirement that official proponents of local ballot initiatives be electors, thereby excluding non-natural persons such as corporations and associations; and (2) the requirement that official initiative proponents identify themselves on the face of the initiative petitions. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants. The en banc court of the Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the requirement that the official proponent of an initiative be an elector does not violate Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association; but (2) the requirement that the name on the official proponent of an initiative be disclosed on the face of the initiative petitions satisfies exacting scrutiny under the First Amendment. View "Chula Vista Citizens for Jobs v. Norris" on Justia Law

By
This case arose from a political battle concerning labor unions. Chula Vista Citizens and the Associations sought to place an initiative on the Chula Vista municipal ballot. The City of Chula Vista requires that initiative proponents be electors (the elector requirement). Because Cal. Elec. Code 9202(a) requires proponents to sign a notice of intent, the effect of Cal. Elec. Code 9207 is that the identities of official proponents are disclosed to would-be signatories of the petition (the petition-proponent disclosure requirement). Plaintiffs filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the elector and petition-proponent disclosure requirements, both facially and as applied, violated the First Amendment. Determining that the elector requirement was properly before the court because it implicated the chilling of expression and because the parties had not indicated that there were many pending actions in the California courts, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants as to the elector requirement where the Associations did not have a First Amendment right to serve as official proponents of local ballot initiatives. The court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants as to the petition-proponent disclosure requirement where the requirement was unconstitutional because they require official initiative proponents to identify themselves on the face of initiative petitions. View "Chula Vista Citizens v. Norris" on Justia Law