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Pro Se Litigation

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Thompson v. DeWine (Edmund A. Sargus, Jr., 2:20-cv-2129), Duncan v. LaRose (Michael H. Watson, 2:20-cv-2295), and Hawkins v. DeWine (James L. Graham, 2:20-cv-2781) (S.D. Ohio)
Federal actions sought modifications of Ohio’s requirements for getting candidates and measures on the ballot in a time of social distancing to prevent transmission of COVID-19 during a global pandemic: acceptance of electronic signatures, a reduced signature requirement, and extended deadlines. One district judge ordered acceptance of electronic signatures and an extension of the deadline but not a reduction in the number of signatures required. The court of appeals, however, stayed the injunction, finding ballot access requirements modest even during the pandemic. A second judge denied relief to a pro se minor presidential candidate. A third judge denied relief, reasoning in part that social distancing is not state action.
Subject: Getting on the ballot. Topics: Getting on the ballot; COVID-19; intervention; ballot measure; pro se party; case assignment.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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Esshaki v. Whitmer (Terrence G. Berg, 2:20-cv-10831), SawariMedia LLC v. Whitmer (Matthew F. Leitman, 4:20-cv-11246), Kishore v. Whitmer (Sean F. Cox, 2:20-cv-11605), Detroit Unity Fund v. Whitmer (Stephanie Dawkins Davis, 4:20-cv-12016), Jobs for Downriver v. Whitmer (George Caram Steeh, 2:20-cv-12115), and Eason v. Whitmer (Robert H. Cleland, 3:20-cv-12252) (E.D. Mich.)
Because of Michigan’s stay-at-home order during the COVID-19 pandemic, a district judge extended the deadline for candidates’ ballot petition signatures and halved the number of signatures re-quired. The court of appeals ruled that the judge was right on the merits but not empowered to specify the remedy. On remand, the district judge ruled that the state’s implemented remedy did not quite pass constitutional muster, and the judge informed the state defendants of a possible constitutional remedy. In a second case involving a proposed statewide initiative, the state never proposed to a second judge an adequate remedy, but the case was ultimately withdrawn for failure to provide evidence of substantial signature collection results. Two additional judges denied ballot petition signature relief, and a fifth case before a fifth judge was dismissed by stipulation. A sixth judge dismissed an action filed more than a month after the ballot petition deadline.
Subject: Getting on the ballot. Topics: COVID-19; getting on the ballot; ballot measure; laches; primary election; intervention; pro se party.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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Garbett v. Herbert (2:20-cv-245) and Brown v. Herbert (1:20-cv-52) (Robert J. Shelby, D. Utah)
A district court modified the ballot petition signature requirement for a prospective gubernatorial candidate because of social distancing during the COVID-19 global infectious pandemic. Even with the modified requirement, the plaintiff was unable to qualify for the primary election ballot. After the injunction was issued, a prospective legislative candidate sought relief from the ballot petition signature requirements, but the court denied the second plaintiff relief.
Subject: Getting on the ballot. Topics: Getting on the ballot; COVID-19; case assignment; primary election; interlocutory appeal; intervention; pro se party.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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De La Fuente Guerra v. Democratic Party of Florida (Robert L. Hinkle, N.D. Fla. 4:16-cv-26), De La Fuente v. Kemp (Richard W. Story, 1:16-cv-256) and De La Fuente v. Kemp (Mark H. Cohen, 1:16-cv-2937) (N.D. Ga.), De La Fuente v. South Carolina Democratic Party (Cameron McGowan Currie, D.S.C. 3:16-cv-322), De La Fuente Guerra v. Winter (Robert C. Brack, D.N.M. 1:16-cv-393), De La Fuente v. Krebs (Roberto A. Lange, D.S.D. 3:16-cv-3035), De La Fuente v. Cortés (John E. Jones III, M.D. Pa. 1:16-cv-1696), De La Fuente v. Wyman (Benjamin H. Settle, W.D. Wash. 3:16-cv-5801), and De La Fuente v. Alcorn (Liam O’Grady, E.D. Va. 1:16-cv-1201)
A prospective candidate for president in 2016 filed federal complaints challenging his exclusion from primary election and general election ballots in several states. In 2018, the candidate achieved a change to ballot access rules in Virginia.
Subject: Getting on the ballot. Topics: Getting on the ballot; pro se party; laches; primary election; matters for state courts; Electoral College; absentee ballots; interlocutory appeal; attorney fees.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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Saball v. Town of Groton (Leo T. Sorokin, D. Mass. 1:18-cv-12312)
A pro se federal complaint alleged that voters’ names on envelopes containing early cast ballots violated the secret ballot. The district judge denied immediate relief for want of compelling arguments and for want of service on the defendants.
Subject: Absentee and early voting. Topics: Early voting; pro se party.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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Acevedo v. Cook County Officers Electoral Board (Elaine E. Bucklo, 1:18-cv-293) and Kowalski McDonald v. Cook County Officers’ Electoral Board (John J. Tharp., Jr., 1:18-cv-1277) (N.D. Ill.)
Two cases challenged the larger number of signatures required to get on a primary election ballot in Cook County than would be required to get on a primary election ballot for statewide office. Both district judges and the court of appeals ruled against the plaintiffs.
Subject: Getting on the ballot. Topics: Getting on the ballot; pro se party; case assignment.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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Davis v. Perry (Orlando L. Garcia, W.D. Tex. 5:11-cv-788)
On September 22, 2011, six days after a three-judge redistricting bench trial on legislative and congressional districts in Texas, voters filed a federal complaint alleging dilution of minority voting strength in their districts. The court ordered the defendants to respond by October 3, and the case was consolidated with a collection of cases already underway. Seven years after the litigation began, the Supreme Court approved districting plans that reflected the political judgments of the state legislature as much as possible, modified by the district court only as necessary to cure legal defects.
Subject: District lines. Topics: Malapportionment; three-judge court; case assignment; section 2 discrimination; section 5 preclearance; intervention; attorney fees; removal; pro se party.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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Hunter v. Hamilton County Board of Elections (1:16-cv-962) and Hunter v. Hamilton County Board of Elections (1:16-cv-996) (Michael R. Barrett, S.D. Ohio)
A plaintiff convicted in state court of a felony filed a federal complaint on September 27, 2016, seeking an order requiring the county board of elections to accept her voter registration because her sentence had been stayed by the district court in a habeas corpus action, so she was not incarcerated. A district judge granted the plaintiff relief on October 6. A second federal complaint filed pro se on October 11 seeking the plaintiff’s certification as a candidate for juvenile court was not successful, because the plaintiff had been disbarred as a result of her conviction.
Subject: Nullifying registrations. Topics: Registration challenges; getting on the ballot; case assignment; pro se party; attorney fees.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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Schulz v. Iowa (James E. Gritzner, S.D. Iowa 4:07-cv-350)
An eight-plaintiff pro se federal complaint challenged the participation fee for Iowa State University’s Republican straw poll for the 2008 presidential election, which was to be held two days after the complaint was filed. On the afternoon before the poll, the district judge denied the plaintiffs immediate relief from the bench after a hearing. The court of appeals affirmed the decision, on the day of the poll.
Subject: Voting procedures. Topics: Pro se party; equal protection; interlocutory appeal.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Raiklin v. Virginia Department/Board of Elections (John A. Gibney, Jr., E.D. Va. 3:18-cv-288)
A district judge denied immediate relief to a pro se plaintiff who filed an action challenging his exclusion from a primary election ballot, because he filed the complaint after early voting had started.
Subject: Getting on the ballot. Topics: Getting on the ballot; laches; pro se party; primary election; early voting; absentee ballots.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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