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Equal Protection

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NAACP—Greensboro Branch v. Guilford County Board of Elections (William L. Osteen, Jr., M.D.N.C. 1:12- cv-111)
The state’s restructuring of a county board of commissioners would result in a two-year transition period with one district unrepresented and another district with two representatives. The district judge declined to enjoin the beginning of the candidate filing period, but on further hearing provisionally enjoined the election. The court’s ultimate remedy was to swap the election schedule for two districts so that an election would be held for the district that would otherwise be unrepresented instead of another district, an election for which would be held two years later. The state resolved the issue of double representation by appointing one of the duplicate representatives to an at-large seat.
Topics: Equal protection; enjoining elections.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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Operation Rainbow-Push, Inc. v. Shelby County Election Commission (Jon P. McCalla, W.D. Tenn. 2:06-cv- 2451)
A municipality removed a state-court action challenging an election to a commission because the members were to be selected from districts but elected at large. Observing the potential impact on candidates for other offices in the election, the district judge denied the plaintiffs immediate relief.
Topics: Enjoining elections; section 2 discrimination; equal protection; intervention; removal.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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Crim v. Tennessee Democratic Party (Kevin H. Sharp, M.D. Tenn. 3:12-cv-838)
A losing primary candidate filed a federal complaint alleging that the victor was improperly included on the ballot and improperly positioned on the ballot because his name was listed alphabetically first. On the next day, after a hearing, the district judge denied the plaintiff immediate relief, finding no wrongdoing and also observing that the plaintiff could have challenged the ballot before the election.
Topics: Enjoining certification; getting on the ballot; laches; equal protection; intervention.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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Belitskus v. Pizzingrilli (A. Richard Caputo, M.D. Pa. 3:00-cv-1300)
Eight days in advance of a filing deadline, a federal complaint objected to a ballot filing fee. The district judge denied immediate relief on the following day and set the matter for hearing two days after that. After the hearing, the judge ordered the commonwealth to provide an alternative to the fee for those unable to pay. The court of appeals affirmed.
Topics: Getting on the ballot; equal protection; attorney fees.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Marascalco v. Grenada (Rhesa Barksdale, Neal B. Biggers, Jr., and Glen Davidson, N.D. Miss. 3:00-cv-61)
Ten days before a municipal election, residents of recently annexed territory filed a federal complaint seeking to halt the election in which they would not be able to vote because the Justice Department denied preclearance to the annexation. A three-judge district court heard the case six days later and denied immediate relief. The court doubted its jurisdiction over the matter and expressed concern about the filing of the complaint nearly two months after the denial of preclearance.
Subject: District lines. Topics: Enjoining elections; equal protection; three-judge court; section 5 preclearance; laches.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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Curington v. Richardson (Charles R. Simpson III, W.D. Ky. 3:03-cv-665)
On the Friday before a general election, a federal complaint alleged that a political party was going to selectively position voter challengers in predominantly African-American precincts. On Monday, a state judge denied immediate relief in a related state-court action, and the federal plaintiffs made a tactical decision to withdraw their request in federal court for immediate relief. A year and a half later, the parties settled the case.
Topics: Registration challenges; equal protection; matters for state courts.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Hunter v. Hamilton County Board of Elections (Susan J. Dlott, S.D. Ohio 1:10-cv-820)
In the 2010 election for Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge, 23 votes separated the two candidates with the validity of many provisional ballots unresolved. The trailing candidate filed a federal action to expand the number of provisional ballots deemed valid when she learned that some, but not all, cast in the wrong precinct would be counted if they were cast in the wrong precinct because of poll-worker error. The district court ordered an investigation into which ballots were cast in the wrong precinct because of erroneous instructions from poll workers. A circuit judge stayed the order, but a full panel dissolved the stay one week later. Litigation continued for 18 months, and then the plaintiff joined the juvenile court bench.
Subject: Provisional ballots. Topics: Provisional ballots; election errors; enjoining certification; interlocutory appeal; equal protection; matters for state courts.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Virginia State Conference of NAACP Branches v. Kaine (Richard L. Williams and Dennis W. Dohnal, E.D. Va. 3:08-cv-692)
Eight days before the 2008 general election, voters filed a federal complaint charging Virginia with unequal allocation of polling place resources. A magistrate judge held a settlement conference on the case’s third day, after which the plaintiffs decided to withdraw their motion for a preliminary injunction. Two days later, the plaintiffs again sought a preliminary injunction, which the district judge denied on the day before the election. Instead, the judge ordered the posting of notices about curbside voting and that anyone in line at closing time would be able to vote.
Topics: Equal protection; polling hours; intervention; case assignment.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Holley v. City of Roanoke (W. Harold Albritton, M.D. Ala. 3:01-cv-775)
A federal complaint challenged a refusal by a city council to reappoint a board of education member in violation of a customary practice in which each member of the council names the board member for the council member’s district. A three-judge district court was appointed to hear a claim that the alleged change in practice violated section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. After a hearing, the court dismissed the section 5 claim because it concerned appointment rather than voting. The original district judge dismissed other claims because the evidence was that the deviation from custom was motived by policy disagreements rather than by race. A remaining claim was dismissed voluntarily.
Subject: Voting irregularities. Topics: Section 5 preclearance; three-judge court; equal protection.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

ACLU of Minnesota v. Kiffmeyer (James M. Rosenbaum, D. Minn. 0:04-cv-4653)
The court determined that recognizing tribal photo identification cards as proof of both identity and address only if the voter resided on a reservation violated equal protection. While the case was pending, the legislature brought the state’s law into compliance.
Topics: Voter identification; Help America Vote Act (HAVA); equal protection.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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