Justia U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Election Law
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Plaintiffs filed a putative class action alleging that during the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries the DNC and its chairwoman improperly tipped the scales in favor of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was challenging Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination. The Eleventh Circuit held that some named plaintiffs representing the DNC donor class have adequately alleged Article III standing, but that no named plaintiffs representing the Sanders donor class have done so. The court dismissed the fraud and negligent misrepresentation claims on the merits, holding that plaintiffs representing the DNC donor class failed to allege with particularity the manner in which they relied on defendants' statements. Therefore, the general allegation of reliance was not fatal to the Article III standing of the DNC donor class, but it fell short of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b)'s heightened pleading standard. The court also held that the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act claim of the DNC donor class failed the plausibility standard set out in cases like Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556–57 (2007); plaintiffs in the DNC donor class have failed to state a claim for unjust enrichment under Florida law; plaintiffs in the Democratic voter class failed to allege an injury-in-fact sufficient to confer Article III standing when they alleged a breach of fiduciary duty by the DNC and its chairwoman; and the district court did not err in dismissing the complaint without sua sponte granting plaintiffs leave to file a second amended complaint. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment of dismissal, remanding for amendment of its order. View "Wilding v. DNC Services Corp." on Justia Law

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The ACRU filed suit alleging that defendant, the former Broward County Supervisor of Elections, failed to satisfy her list-maintenance obligations under the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The Eleventh Circuit held that, under the NVRA, the states and their subsidiaries are required to conduct a general program of list maintenance that makes a reasonable effort to remove voters who become ineligible on account of death or change of residence, and only on those two accounts. The court also held that nothing in the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) changes what is required by the NVRA. Finally, the court held that the NVRA sets forth an explicit safe-harbor procedure by which the states may fulfill their list-maintenance obligations as to voters who move. In this case, the district court did not clearly err by finding that defendant's Election Supervisor conducted a program reasonably designed to accomplish these tasks required under the NVRA. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "American Civil Rights Union v. Snipes" on Justia Law

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This case involved Florida's practice of counting vote-by-mail ballots only after verifying that the voter's signature provided with the ballot matches the voter's signature in the state's records. At issue in this appeal was NRSC's motion for emergency stay. The court denied NRSC's motion and held that NRSC failed to satisfy the requirements for the issuance of a stay. The court applied the factors in Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 434 (2009), and held that NRSC has not made a strong showing that it was likely to succeed on appeal. In this case, NRSC has not made a strong showing that the burden imposed on the right to vote is constitutional as judged by the Anderson-Burdick balancing test and NRSC has not made a strong showing that it was likely to succeed on the merits of its laches argument. The court also held that the remaining Nken factors similarly disfavored a stay. View "Democratic Executive Committee of Florida v. Lee" on Justia Law

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In this appeal challenging the constitutionality of Alabama’s three percent signature requirement for ballot access under certain election circumstances, the Eleventh Circuit held that the case was moot. Under Alabama law, independent candidates for political office have the right to have their name listed on the election ballot by filing a petition signed by at least three percent of qualified electors. James Hall, who ran as an independent candidate in a special election to fill a vacancy in Alabama’s First United States House of Representatives District, brought this action challenging the constitutionality of the three percent requirement as applied during a special election cycle. The district court issued a declaratory judgment that Alabama’s three percent signature requirement for ballot access violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments when enforced during any off-season special election for a U.S. House of Representatives seat in Alabama. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court and remanded with instructions to dismiss the case as moot, holding that there was no expectation that Hall, the same complaining party, will again be subject to the three percent requirement as an independent candidate or voter in a special election for a U.S. House seat. View "Hall v. Secretary, State of Alabama" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Alabama made changes to its election law that impacted the ADC’s ability to raise and spend money in state elections. The ADC filed suit challenging Alabama Code 17-5-15(b) (the PAC-to-PAC transfer ban), which limited the ADC's fundraising abilities. On appeal, the ADC challenges the district court's final judgment in favor of the State, arguing that the PAC-to-PAC transfer ban is unconstitutional as applied because the ban violates the ADC’s First Amendment right to make independent expenditures. The court concluded that the State’s proffered interest in transparency ties into its interest in preventing corruption to justify regulating transfers between PACs. The court also concluded that the PAC-to-PAC transfer ban as applied to the ADC is sufficiently closely drawn to avoid unnecessary abridgment of associational freedoms. The ban had met the less rigorous "closely drawn" standard by being narrowly tailored to achieve Alabama's desired objective in preventing quid pro quo corruption (or its appearance) as applied to the ADC in this case. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's finding on the merits that the ban is constitutional as applied to ADC. View "The Alabama Democratic Conference v. Attorney General, State of Alabama" on Justia Law

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The Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (UOCAVA), Pub. L. No. 111-84, Subtitle H, 575-589, 123 Stat. 2190, 2322, amended the Uniformed and Overseas Citizen Absentee Voting Act of 1986, 42 U.S.C. 1973ff. The UOCAVA now requires a state, absent a hardship waiver, to transmit an absentee ballot to the voter "not later than 45 days before the election[.]" Georgia and Alabama appealed the district court's grant of preliminary injunctive relief, summary judgment, and permanent injunctive relief in a suit brought by the United States against Georgia and Alabama. The district court ruled that the 45-day transmittal requirement applies to runoff elections for federal office, and that the runoff election schemes in these two states violated UOCAVA. After the district court had issued its ruling and after the briefs in this appeal were filed, the Georgia Legislature passed H.B. 310, which in relevant part amends Georgia's election calendar and voting procedures to comply with the 45-day transmittal requirement. In light of H.B. 310, the court dismissed Georgia's appeal as moot. View "United States v. State of Georgia" on Justia Law

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The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), 52 U.S.C. 20302(a)(8)(A), includes a variety of measures that states are required to adopt in order to accommodate military voters when they administer federal elections. At issue is section 20302(a)(8)(A)'s requirement that, when a qualifying military or overseas voter requests an absentee ballot for a federal election, a state must transmit a ballot to that voter forty-five days before the federal election. The United States filed suit against Alabama seeking to enjoin the State from holding federal runoff elections forty-two days after federal primary elections. When the court looked at the text of section 20302(a)(9), the court found that it directs states only to "establish a written plan" in preparation for runoff elections, and makes no claim that it abrogates the mandatory forty-five day transmission timeline. In light of the plain language of this substantive command - and Congress's clear intent to prioritize the empowerment of military voters through clear and accessible absentee voting procedures - the court concluded that section 20302(a)(9) does not alter the court's interpretation. Therefore, the court held that the State must transmit validly requested absentee ballots to eligible UOCAVA voters forty-five days before each federal election, whether that election is primary, general, special, or runoff. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the United States. View "United States v. Alabama" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit claiming that Fayette County's at-large election system violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. 10301, by effectively guaranteeing that no African-American would be able to participate in the political process through election to the Board of Commissioners (BOC) and the Board of Education (BOE), nor would African-American voters be able to elect representatives of their choice to either entity. The district court granted summary judgment in plaintiffs' favor, finding that the at-large election method used by both the BOC and BOE resulted in impermissible vote dilution. However, the court concluded that the district court failed to notice the BOE that it was considering awarding summary judgment against it; the district court weighed the evidence submitted by the moving parties, accepting the support proffered by plaintiffs and rejecting the contrary evidence presented by the BOC; and, therefore, without opining as to the correctness of the district court's substantive conclusions, the district court erred in its Section 2 determination on summary judgment. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Georgia State Conference of the NAACP v. Fayette Cnty. Bd. of Comm'rs" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that Alabama's ballot access statute violates their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The court concluded that the district court properly granted summary judgment to the Secretary and adopted much of the district court's reasoning contained in its memorandum opinion and order. The court held that plaintiffs' constitutional claims failed where plaintiffs did not present evidence showing that the legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for the State's restrictions on petition-based ballot access unconstitutionally burdens their associational rights. Rather, the burden on plaintiffs was slight, and the State's interests in treating all political parties fairly and in setting a deadline that provides sufficient time to verify the petition signatures outweigh the burden to plaintiffs' associational rights. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Stein v. AL Secretary of State" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the Florida Secretary of State, arguing that Florida was violating the 90 Day Provision of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), 42 U.S.C. 1973gg-6(c)(2)(A), by conducting a program to systematically remove suspected non-citizens from the voter rolls within 90 days of a federal election. The 90 Day Provision requires states to "complete, not later than 90 days prior to the date of primary or general election for Federal office, any program the purpose of which is to systematically remove the names of ineligible voters from the official lists of eligible voters." Concerned about people who are not citizens casting ballots in Florida elections, the Secretary engaged in two separate programs to identify and remove non-citizens from the Florida voter rolls. Determining that the issue was not moot even if the 2012 elections have passed, the court concluded that the plain meaning of the 90 Day Provision indicates that the Secretary's actions fall under the category of "any program...to systematically remove the names of ineligible voters." Further, the statutory context and policy of the NVRA supported the court's conclusion that the plain meaning of "any program...to systematically remove the names of ineligible voters" was intended by Congress to include programs like the Secretary's. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Arcia, et al. v. Florida Secretary of State" on Justia Law