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

Articles Posted in Election Law
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The Libertarian Party filed suit against the Secretary of State of Georgia, alleging that Georgia's ballot-access requirements for third-party and independent candidates violated their associational rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments and their Equal Protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Secretary, holding that the district court's failure to apply the Supreme Court's test for the constitutionality of ballot-access requirements, as articulated in Anderson v. Celebreeze, 460 U.S. 780 (1983), constitutes reversible error. Accordingly, the court remanded to the district court with instructions to conduct in the first instance the Anderson test and to consider the Party's Equal Protection claim. View "Cowen v. Georgia Secretary of State" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal is whether several voters and organizations have standing to challenge a law that governs the order in which candidates appear on the ballot in Florida's general elections. The voters and organizations alleged that the law violates their rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments because candidates who appear first on the ballot—in recent years, Republicans—enjoy a "windfall vote" from a small number of voters who select the first candidate on a ballot solely because of that candidate's position of primacy. The district court permanently enjoined the Secretary from preparing ballots in accordance with the law. The Eleventh Circuit vacated and remanded with instructions to dismiss for lack of justiciability, holding that the voters and organizations lack standing to sue the Secretary, because none of them proved an injury in fact. Furthermore, any injury they might suffer is neither fairly traceable to the Secretary nor redressable by a judgment against her because she does not enforce the challenged law. Rather, the county officials independent of the Secretary (the Supervisors) are responsible for placing candidates on the ballot in the order the law prescribes. Therefore, the court held that the district court lacked authority to enjoin those officials in this action and it was powerless to provide redress. View "Jacobson v. Florida Secretary of State" on Justia Law

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Florida's 2018 U.S. Senate election triggered a statewide recount. The Democratic Executive Committee challenged the signature-match requirements of Florida’s vote-by-mail statute, which gave voters who learned that their votes had been blocked for signature mismatch until “5 p.m. one day before the election” to verify their identities by submitting an affidavit and an accepted form of identification. They also challenged Florida’s law allowing prospective voters who could not prove their eligibility to cast provisional ballots; provisional ballots rejected because of signature mismatch could not be cured after the fact. The district court entered a modified preliminary injunction allowing the “ballots of those voters who were belatedly notified of signature mismatch” to be counted, provided that “those voters timely verified their identities.” The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) sought an emergency stay, which was denied by the Eleventh Circuit. The preliminary injunction expired two days later. About three months later, the motions panel issued an opinion explaining its denial of the emergency stay. In 2019, S.B. 7066, significantly amended the signature-match provisions. The plaintiffs dismissed their lawsuit. Defendants moved to dismiss their appeal of the preliminary injunction. The NRSC agreed that the case was moot but moved to vacate the order granting a preliminary injunction and the stay-panel opinion. The Eleventh Circuit concluded that it retained jurisdiction to consider the proposed motions but declined to vacate the prior opinions because they will not have negative collateral effects on any party. View "Democratic Executive Committee of Florida v. National Republican Senatorial Committee" on Justia Law

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The Executive Clemency Board appealed the district court's orders denying in part its motion for summary judgment and permanently enjoining Florida's former system for re-enfranchising convicted felons. Plaintiff and other convicted felons alleged that the former system facially violated their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The district court granted plaintiff's motion on three of four counts, and issued permanent injunctions prohibiting the Board from enforcing the then-current vote-restoration system, ending all vote-restoration processes. In 2016, Florida voters amended their state constitution as it concerns the re-enfranchisement of convicted felons. In 2019, Florida's legislature revised its statutory scheme for re-enfranchisement. Plaintiff claimed that he and the other convicted felons are eligible to seek restoration of their voting rights. Therefore, the Eleventh Circuit held that this case is moot and vacated in part the district court's order on cross-motions for summary judgment dated February 1, 2018; vacated the district court's order directing entry of judgment dated March 27, 2018; and remanded with instructions to dismiss. View "Hand v. Desantis" on Justia 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