Articles Posted in Election Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the constitutionality of certain contribution restrictions within New York City's campaign finance laws. Plaintiffs claimed that the laws’ restrictions on contributions unduly burdened their protected political speech in violation of the First Amendment and denied them equal protection of the laws in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court denied plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief and dismissed their claims challenging the constitutionality of the contribution restrictions. Several years later, the Supreme Court issued its decision in McCutcheon v. FEC. Plaintiffs contend in their Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) motion for reconsideration that McCutcheon established, inter alia, a more rigorous standard of review with respect to the government’s burden of proof and what constitutes a permissible governmental interest, a standard under which the “pay to play” rules do not pass muster. The court concluded that neither of plaintiffs' purported effects, considered alone or in combination, satisfies the threshold requirement under the third clause of Rule 60(b)(5) that the judgment sought to be reconsidered apply prospectively. In this case, the February 2009 order at issue was immediately final and required nothing of the parties or the district court going forward; it did not apply prospectively. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiffs' Rule 60(b) motion. View "Tapper v Hearn" on Justia Law

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VRLC is a non-profit corporation and VRLC-FIPE is a political committee formed under Vermont law. VRLC challenged three disclosure provisions of Vermont's election laws as unconstitutionally vague and violating freedom of speech. The court concluded that the Vermont statutory disclosure provisions concerning electioneering communications and mass media activities are constitutional and did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment's due process guarantee due to vagueness nor the First Amendment's free speech guarantee; Vermont's "political committee" definition did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment's due process guarantee because of vagueness nor violate the First Amendment's free speech guarantee; and Vermont may impose contribution limits on VRLC-PC, an entity that makes contributions to candidates, and the statute's contribution limits were constitutionally applied to VRLC-FIPE, which claims to be an independent-expenditure-only PAC. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants. View "Vermont Right to Life Committee v. Sorrell, et al." on Justia Law

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NYPPP filed suit against election officials and others to enjoin enforcement of New York State Election Law 14-114(8) and 14-126(2). Section 14-114(8) imposed a $150,000 aggregate annual limit on certain political contributions by any person in New York State. Section 14-126(2) made it a misdemeanor to fail to file required statements or to knowingly and willfully violate any other provision of the Election Law. NYPPP would be prevented from receiving more than $150,000 from any individual contributor in any calendar year. The court concluded that NYPPP had a substantial likelihood of success on the merits; there were important public interests at stake which were weighed against the hardships suffered by NYPPP; and the hardships faced by NYPPP and its donors from the denial of relief was significant. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's order denying the preliminary injunction. View "New York Progress and Protection PAC v. Walsh, et al." on Justia Law

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NOM, a nonprofit advocacy organization, appealed the district court's dismissal of its amended complaint for lack of subject-matter-jurisdiction. NOM was seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, arguing that New York Election Law 14-100.1, which defined the term "political committee" for the purposes of state elections, violated the First Amendment. The court determined that NOM's case presented a live controversy that was ripe for consideration and vacated the district court's determination that it lacked jurisdiction. Because that conclusion prevented the district court from reaching the merits of NOM's claims, the court declined to comment on the substance of NOM's claims in the first instance. Therefore, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "National Organization for Marriage, Inc. v. Walsh" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, black and Hispanic registered voters in Albany County, sued the County and the Board of Elections (collectively, defendants) for enacting a redistricting plan for the Albany County Legislature (Local Law C) in response to the 2010 United States census that allegedly diluted black and Hispanic voting strength in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), 42 U.S.C. 1973, by failing to provide for five majority-minority districts (MMDs). The court concluded that plaintiffs' appeal was not moot, even though the challenged elections have not taken place. While the court identified legal error in the district court's determination that plaintiffs failed to make the majority-minority showing required to satisfy the first step of a vote dilution claim as identified in Thornburg v. Gingles, the court identified no error in the district court's determination that plaintiffs failed to demonstrate a likelihood of success as the third majority bloc-voting step of the Gingles inquiry, or in the court's denial of preliminary injunctive relief on that ground. View "Pope v. County of Albany" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that recently-enacted amendments to the New York City Administrative Code, commonly known as the "pay-to-play" rules, violated the First Amendment by unduly burdening protected political speech and association, the Fourteenth Amendment by denying equal protection of the laws, and the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973. The challenged provisions (1) reduced below the generally-applicable campaign contribution limited the amounts that people who have business dealings with the city, including lobbyists, could contribute to political campaigns; (2) denied matching funds for contributions by people who have business dealings with the city and certain people associated with lobbyists; and (3) extended the existing prohibition on corporate contributions to partnerships, LLCs, and LLPs. The court affirmed summary judgment as to all three provisions, finding that the laws were closely drawn to address the significant governmental interest in reducing corruption or the appearance thereof.

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Plaintiffs, a group of prospective political candidates, petition circulators, and voters, appealed from the district court's order awarding summary judgment to the Board of Elections in the City of New York and upholding the State's "Party Witness Rule." The Rule, contained in New York Election Law 6-132, limited who a candidate for a political party's nomination could use to circulate so-called "designating petitions," which allowed the candidate to appear on the party primary ballot. Unless the circulator was a notary public or commissioner of deeds, the Party Witness Rule restricted designating petition circulators to "enrolled voter[s] of the same political party as the voters qualified to sign the petition," the party in whose primary the candidate sought to run. The court held that because plaintiffs were without a right to have non-party members participate in a political party's nomination process, the judgment of the district court was affirmed.