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Enjoining Elections

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Format: 2020
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Democratic National Committee v. Bostelmann (3:20-cv-249), Gear v. Knudson (3:20-cv-278), and Lewis v. Kundson (3:20-cv-284) (William M. Conley, W.D. Wis.) and City of Green Bay v. Bostelmann (William C. Griesbach, 2:20-cv-479) and Taylor v. Milwaukee Election Comm’n (Pamela Pepper, 2:20-cv-545) (E.D. Wis.)
In light of a global infectious pandemic, federal litigation to modify election procedures for the April 2020 election in Wisconsin, which included a presidential primary election, began about three weeks before the election. Shortly after a complaint was filed, and again a few days before the election, a federal judge in the Western District of Wisconsin ordered some modifications to enable absentee voting by mail. The judge declined to order a delay in the election. The court of appeals reversed the district judge’s modification to absentee voter witness certification requirements, and the Supreme Court reversed the district judge’s extension of time to mail absentee ballots after election day. Suits in the Eastern District were unsuccessful, and related actions in the Western District remain pending.
Subject: Absentee and early voting. Topics: COVID-19; registration procedures; absentee ballots; enjoining elections; interlocutory appeal; voter identification; intervention; primary election; voting technology; case assignment; class action.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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Yang v. New York State Board of Elections (Analisa Torres, S.D.N.Y. 1:20-cv-3325)
Because all but one candidate for a party’s presidential nomination had announced suspension of their campaigns, and in light of a global infectious pandemic, election officials in New York canceled the party’s 2020 presidential primary election, leaving in place primary elections for other offices in most of the state’s counties. A district judge and the court of appeals concluded that it was unconstitutional to remove from the ballots candidates who had merely suspended their campaigns.
Subject: Election dates. Topics: Enjoining elections; COVID-19; primary election; getting on the ballot; intervention; absentee ballots; party procedures; class action.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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Underwood v. Gulley (Madeline Hughes Haikala, N.D. Ala. 2:18-cv-1310)
A federal judge denied plaintiffs a preliminary injunction to prevent municipal officers from overseeing an election scheduled days later. Although there was evidence of improper activity in the past, the evidence was not strong enough to show that interference with the upcoming election was justified.
Subject: Voting procedures. Topics: Enjoining elections; case assignment.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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Napierski v. Guilderland Democratic Committee (Glenn T. Suddaby, N.D.N.Y. 1:18-cv-846)
A district judge denied relief to a prospective candidate who challenged the plaintiff’s party picking nominees for local offices using a caucus instead of a primary election, as other parties used. Receptive to claims that the caucus would not be adequately accessible to persons with disabilities, however, the judge obtained remedial assurances from the defendants.
Subject: Voting procedures. Topics: Getting on the ballot; party procedures; primary election; enjoining elections; equal protection; recusal; case assignment.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Fox v. Paterson (David G. Larimer, W.D.N.Y. 6:10-cv-6240), Rossito-Canty v. Cuomo (Jack B. Weinstein, E.D.N.Y. 1:15-cv-568), and Seubert v. Cuomo (Frank P. Geraci, Jr., W.D.N.Y. 6:18-cv-6303)
A 2010 federal lawsuit sought an injunction requiring a prompt special election to fill a congressional vacancy. After the complaint was filed, the governor decided to combine the special election with the general election occurring in six months. The district judge determined that the Constitution did not require a special election more prompt than that. A 2015 case filed in another district within the same state concerned a vacancy occurring much more in advance of the regular general election, and the district judge ordered the governor to promptly set a special election date. A 2018 case with a timeline similar to the 2010 case had a result similar to the 2010 case’s.
Subject: Election dates. Topic: Enjoining elections.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Salazar v. Monterey County (5:03-cv-3584) and Oliverez v. California (5:03-cv-3658) (Jeremy Fogel, N.D. Cal.); Hernandez v. Merced County (1:03-cv-6147) and Gallegos v. California (1:03-cv-6157) (Oliver W. Wanger, E.D. Cal.)
When the state set a special election on whether to recall the governor, a ballot initiative was moved from a primary election to the earlier special election. Separate federal cases alleged that the recall and the early ballot initiative could not be held because they had not been precleared pursuant to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act as required for four of California’s counties. The state obtained preclearance just as a three-judge district court met to review the case. The judge presiding over two similar cases in another of the state’s districts allowed the court presiding over the cases filed earlier to decide the issues.
Subject: Recall elections. Topics: Section 5 preclearance; three-judge court; enjoining elections; news media; ballot measure.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Buell v. Monterey County (Jeremy Fogel, N.D. Cal. 5:10-cv-1952)
A federal complaint alleged that polling place consolidations and the date of the election had not been precleared for a special election to fill a vacancy in the state senate, as required by section 5 of the Voting Rights Act for a county overlapping with the senate district. By the time a three-judge district court met to hear the case, the special election had been precleared.
Subject: Election dates. Topics: Poll locations; section 5 preclearance; three-judge court; enjoining elections; intervention.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Republican Party of Texas v. Pablos (Andrew Austin and Sam Sparks, 1:17-cv-1167) and Texas Democratic Party v. Republican Party of Texas (Lee Yeakel, 1:17-cv-1186) (W.D. Tex.)
A member of Congress withdrew from reelection consideration after the statutory deadline for removal from the primary election ballot. His party filed a federal action to keep him off the ballot, but the state’s secretary of state said that he would not interfere with the removal. The opposing party filed a federal case to keep the incumbent on the ballot, but the judge declined to order immediate relief. Both actions were withdrawn voluntarily.
Subject: Getting on the ballot. Topics: Getting on the ballot; primary election; party procedures; case assignment; enjoining elections.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

LULAC of Texas v. Ramon (Alia Moses Ludlum, Jerry E. Smith, and Xavier Rodriguez, W.D. Tex. 2:10-cv-58)
A three-judge district court enjoined a special election set by a state court for lack of preclearance pursuant to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Once an uncontested schedule had received preclearance, the district court dissolved the injunction.
Subject: Election dates. Topics: Section 5 preclearance; three-judge court; enjoining elections; matters for state courts; primary election.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Davis v. Cooney (Eleanor L. Ross, N.D. Ga. 1:16-cv-3844)
A voter filed a suit to stop a referendum on the incorporation of a new city because two regions of the proposed city might not be included in the new city, depending on the results of other litigation, and so voters in those regions allegedly would dilute the plaintiff’s vote. The district judge determined that the Equal Protection Clause did not restrict who could vote on incorporation as the plaintiff alleged.
Topics: Enjoining elections; equal protection; ballot measure.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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