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Laches

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Arizona Public Integrity Alliance Inc. v. Bennett (Neil V. Wake, D. Ariz. 2:14-cv-1044)
Thirteen days before a deadline for primary election nomination petitions, a federal complaint challenged a requirement of a minimum number of signatures in each of at least three counties as favoring less populous counties. After a hearing held two weeks after the complaint was filed, the district judge denied a motion for preliminary relief as barred by laches. Several weeks later, the state conceded that the county-based signature requirement was unconstitutional, and the judge signed a stipulated judgment in the plaintiffs’ favor.
Topics: Getting on the ballot; laches; equal protection; primary election; early voting.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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Browne v. Bayless (Robert C. Broomfield, D. Ariz. 2:00-cv-1774)
Rival factions of Arizona’s Libertarian Party named different presidential nominees for the 2000 election, and the national party’s nominee was not the one selected to represent the party on the Arizona ballot. After unsuccessful state court litigation, the national nominee filed an action in federal court, which the district judge dismissed one week later. The action was barred by (1) the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which states that among federal courts only the Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction over state court proceedings; (2) Younger abstention, which avoids undue interference in state functions; (3) the plaintiffs’ failure to name indispensable parties; and (4) laches.
Topics: Getting on the ballot; matters for state courts; laches; party procedures.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Somers v. All Improperly Filed Candidates (3:12-cv-1191) and Smith v. South Carolina State Election Commission (3:12-cv-1543) (Cameron McGowan Currie) and Williams v. South Carolina State Election Commission (Henry F. Floyd, David C. Norton, and Richard Mark Gergel, 2:12-cv-2760) (D.S.C.)
Many candidates were disqualified from primary ballots following a state supreme court’s strict interpretation of a candidacy filing statute. A candidate who was not disqualified filed a federal action attacking the disqualifications. The district court determined that a candidate who was not disqualified and who was not suing as a voter lacked standing for the suit. In a related case, disqualified candidates filed a federal action arguing that the state supreme court decision could not have effect without preclearance pursuant to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. A three-judge district court determined that the state court’s interpretation of the statute comported with the statute’s plain meaning, so it could not be a change requiring preclearance. Another section 5 complaint alleged that preclearance was required for a state supreme court decision approving a special primary election after it was determined that the only candidate in the original primary election was not exempt from the filing requirements at issue in the previous cases. A new three-judge court determined that the state supreme court’s decision was an application of existing law rather than a change in voting procedures.
Subject: Getting on the ballot. Topics: Getting on the ballot; campaign materials; section 5 preclearance; three-judge court; recusal; case assignment; intervention; laches.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Picard Samuel v. Virgin Islands Joint Board of Elections (Curtis V. Gómez and Raymond L. Finch, D.V.I. 3:12-cv-94)
Following a general election, unsuccessful candidates filed a pro se federal complaint to nullify the results and enjoin the swearing in of the winners. A district judge denied the plaintiffs a temporary restraining order. The plaintiffs sought reversal of the denial by recusal of the judge, also naming as a recusal ground the judge’s sister's being a winning candidate in the election. The case was already reassigned to another judge for the sake of efficiency, and the second judge denied the plaintiffs a preliminary injunction because they could not show that the election irregularities of which they complained resulted in their defeats. Later, the second judge dismissed the complaint for lack of standing.
Subject: Voting irregularities. Topics: Enjoining certification; election errors; laches; pro se party; voting technology.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Singleton v. Alabama Democratic Party (Mark E. Fuller, M.D. Ala. 2:04-cv-1027)
A candidate filed a federal action because a state court had removed her name from the ballot. The federal court denied her relief because she had not filed the action until after absentee voting had begun and because under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine only the Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction over state court proceedings.
Topics: Getting on the ballot; laches; matters for state courts; section 5 preclearance; three-judge court; enjoining elections; enjoining certification.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Barron v. New York City Board of Elections (Raymond J. Dearie, E.D.N.Y. 1:08-cv-3839)
A federal complaint sought a court ordered special election at the time of the general election to fill out the last two months of a vacancy in the state’s assembly. The complaint included a claim that failure to fill the final two months had not been precleared pursuant to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The district judge denied the plaintiffs immediate relief because the candidate that the plaintiffs supported was running unopposed for the seat, so omission from absentee ballots would not be injurious. A three-judge district court found that section 5 preclearance was not required for the unusual circumstances.
Subject: Election dates. Topics: Getting on the ballot; section 5 preclearance; three-judge court; laches; matters for state courts.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Queens County Republican Committee ex rel. Maltese v. New York State Board of Elections (Arthur D. Spatt, 2:02-cv-4836) and Soleil v. New York (David G. Trager and Allyne R. Ross, 1:04-cv-3247) (E.D.N.Y.)
A district judge denied a challenge to election laws that permit persons outside of a political party to challenge primary election ballot petitions. In a case filed two years later, a different district judge in the same district agreed with the first judge’s reasoning and dismissed a complaint alleging that persons not wishing to run should not be able to challenge ballot petitions.
Topics: Getting on the ballot; primary election; matters for state courts; case assignment; pro se party; class action; laches; party procedures; recusal.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Harris v. Diaz (Richard M. Berman, S.D.N.Y. 1:04-cv-9124)
The district judge dismissed a post-election complaint that a victorious legislature candidate did not live in the district he was elected to represent. On the one hand, the appropriate proceeding would be a state court quo warranto action; on the other hand, the time to challenge eligibility was before the election.
Topics: Enjoining certification; matters for state courts; laches.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Lamar Co. v. Spokane County Board of County Commissioners (Fred Van Sickle, E.D. Wash. 2:02-cv-326)
The district court ruled that it was not improper for a county to put on the general election ballot an advisory question on curtailing roadside billboards.
Topics: Ballot measure; getting on the ballot; enjoining elections; laches; ballot language.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Golden v. Virgin Islands (Raymond L. Finch, D.V.I. 1:05-cv-5)
An election board incumbent came in fourth as a write-in candidate in a general election for four seats on the board. She filed a federal complaint challenging an attorney general opinion that she could not avoid a maximum quota of four members of the same party on the board by changing her party affiliation after the election. The court denied the plaintiff a preliminary injunction.
Topics: Enjoining certification; write-in candidate; laches; primary election.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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