Category Archives: Courts

SCOTUS Rules; Calif. Recall Scheduled

Current US Supreme Court

By Jim Ellis

July 6, 2021 — On their last day of the year’s early session last week, a Thursday, the Supreme Court of the United States issued rulings on the Arizona voting rights case and the California non-profit organization disclosure lawsuit.

In the Democratic National Committee v. Brnovich, the Supreme Court with Justice Samuel Alito writing for the 6-3 majority, ruled that the state of Arizona did not infringe upon minority voting rights or violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act in both prohibiting ballot harvesting with certain exceptions, and not counting provisional ballots cast from voters who do not reside in the particular precinct that the polling place covers.

The high court agreed with Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s (R) arguments that the laws are not racially motivated, nor do they intentionally discriminate against certain segments of the voting population, thus overturning the full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling.

Originally in 2016, Brnovich won at the district court level and on the first appeal to a three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit. The DNC requested an en banc review of the original appellate ruling that agreed with Brnovich, and the entire 9th Circuit membership overturned the decision, siding with the plaintiff. At that point, AG Brnovich petitioned the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case. (Hearing cases en banc allows the full circuit court to overturn a decision reached by a three–judge panel. Due to the decreasing probability of U.S. Supreme Court intervention, the circuit court is often the court of last resort in the ordinary life of a case, thereby amplifying the importance of en banc review.)

In his ruling, Justice Alito stated that “every voting rule imposes a burden of some sort,” and that “mere inconvenience cannot be enough to demonstrate a violation of Section 2.” He also cautioned that, “what are at bottom very small differences should not be artificially magnified.”

While agreeing that holding free and open elections is a “valid and important state interest,” he also addressed the voter fraud argument, clearly stating that attempting to prevent such abuses is also a “strong and entirely legitimate state interest.”

In her article discussing these rulings, Supreme Court expert Amy Howe, in her Howe on the Court article that was published on the SCOTUS blog, offered that the Brnovich ruling “will make it more difficult to contest election regulations under the Voting Rights Act,” and thus likely means fewer voting rights cases coming through the courts. She further categorized this decision as a “major ruling.”

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Three Events Mark The Most Significant Day in 2022 Election Cycle

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 10, 2021 — Three major events affecting the election process occurred Monday, making it possibly the most significant day to this point in the 2022 election cycle.


NY-22

Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) conceded a tight election Monday after former US Rep. Claudia Tenney (R) was certified as the NY-22 winner by 109 votes.

From New York, and rather surprisingly, former Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) conceded the last remaining uncalled 2020 election late Monday afternoon. The move was unexpected because he had filed several appeals to State Supreme Court of Oswego County Justice Scott DelConte’s rulings concerning more than 500 ballots that were either added to the aggregate count or voided.

On Friday last week, Justice DelConte’s ordered the counties that comprise the 22nd District to send their final vote counts to the state Board of Elections for final certification. The districtwide total gave former Rep. Claudia Tenney (R) a 109-vote victory margin.

Brindisi was not shy in bashing the local election officials as part of his concession, however. The election administration in seven of the district’s eight counties were often criticized as part of the almost three-month long court proceeding with Justice DelConte even going so far as saying that the officials on several occasions either ignored or outright violated New York election law in their handling, counting, and reporting of the votes.

Oneida County, the district’s largest, came under the heaviest criticism when it was discovered that 2,418 people had fully complied with the registration process, but their documents were never converted into official voter registration status. As a result, these individuals were barred from participating in the 2020 election.

Brindisi stated that, “sadly, we may never know how many legal voters were turned away at the polls or ballots not counted due to the ineptitude of the boards of election, especially in Oneida County.” He said he was conceding because the New York Upstate region needs to “move on” after such a long post-election contestation period.

It is presumed that that state Board of Elections’ commissioners will shortly certify the election and that Tenney will then be sworn into the House for the current term. Continue reading

SCOTUS: The Effect of Replacing Late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg On The 35 Senate Races

By Jim Ellis

Late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Sept. 22, 2020 — A secondary question surrounding the replacement process for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is how will the confirmation fight over the next judicial nominee resonate in the 35 Senate races?

In the 18 campaigns that appear non-competitive (9D; 8R) – for example, in Illinois (Sen. Dick Durbin-D), Rhode Island (Sen. Jack Reed-D), Arkansas (Sen. Tom Cotton-R), and Idaho (Sen. Jim Risch-R) to name a representative quartet – the Supreme Court battle will have little influence over the Senate outcome since those situations are virtually decided.

If the individual campaigns play the issue correctly, however, the Supreme Court vacancy development could be a boon to most competitive Republican incumbents and candidates in traditionally conservative states that are moving closer to the political center.

Democratic challengers in the more conservative states could have trouble because the issue matrix likely to be discussed through the nomination and confirmation process should activate the more conservative voting base. This is likely the case in the key competitive southern domains (AL, GA, NC), and in the Midwest and Rocky Mountain states, particularly in Iowa, the Kansas open seat, and for the Montana duel, in addition to the far west campaign in Alaska.

Perhaps the senator in the worst confirmation question situation, and one who can ill afford to be embroiled in such a predicament, is Maine Sen. Susan Collins (R). Already trailing in polling to state House Speaker Sara Gideon, Sen. Collins’ immediate call to postpone the process, and what will likely lead to a vote against the motion to proceed, will likely cost her conservative votes that she badly needs.

Her position to postpone has likely angered many who comprise the conservative base and gained her nothing with the Independents and soft Democrats that she desperately needs to close the gap between she and Gideon.

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Pennsylvania Voting Rules

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 21, 2020 — Pennsylvania’s Democratic controlled Supreme Court changed their state election procedures late last week in a series of rulings on a lawsuit that the Pennsylvania Secretary of State and PA Democratic Party previously filed.

Under the new process, receiving votes after the election is allowed if “no evidence exists” that the ballot was mailed after Election Day, Nov. 3. The deadline for ballot acceptance now moves from 8 pm on Election Day to 5 pm, Friday, Nov. 6. Pennsylvania becomes the 17th state to allow post-election reception for this 2020 election. The ruling increases the chances that we will not have a winner declared on election night.

Additionally, three other rulings will allow drop boxes to be used as ballot receptacles in the various counties, affirmed that poll watchers can only serve in their own county of residence, and Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins’ name was removed from the ballot. The court did not grant the lawsuit motion to allow ballot harvesting, which would permit third parties to deliver ballots to the authorities or ballot drop boxes.

The drop boxes will be placed in various locations around a county and voters can deposit their ballots without using the postal service to transfer their vote to the county election authorities. Hawkins’ name was removed from the ballot because the court said he “failed to comply with the Election Code’s strict mandate” and the attempts to fix the problem “did not suffice to cure that error,” but the specifics were not addressed.

With the large number of absentee ballots expected here and in other states, the trend toward allowing post-election reception, and the laws that some states, like Pennsylvania, have to control when the mail ballots can be counted, makes it less likely that we will see a definitive presidential campaign result on Nov. 3. The same will be true for certain US Senate and House races.

Of the 17 states, now including Pennsylvania, that are allowing post-election ballot reception, seven appear competitive. The others, Alaska, California, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia will likely declare a clear winner relatively early in the counting period.

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Florida Supreme Court: CDs Unconstitutional

July 13, 2015 — Issuing a long-awaited decision late last week, the Florida State Supreme Court on a 5-2 vote, featuring a lengthy and powerful dissent from Associate Justice and former Congressman Charles Canady (R), declared eight congressional districts illegal under the Florida Constitution in reference to the voter-passed redistricting initiative. The 2010 citizen sponsored measure put partisan restrictions on legislative map drawers, and it is under these provisions that the court took its action.

For the short-term, it means that representatives Corrine Brown (D-FL-5), David Jolly (R-FL-13), Kathy Castor (D-FL-14), Ted Deutch (D-FL-21), Lois Frankel (D-FL-22), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL-25), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL-26), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL-27) will soon have their districts reconstructed and before the 2016 election.

The ruling will force the legislature to convene in special session to redraw significant portions of the map. Though the court singled out these eight districts, the entire state map could conceivably be affected. Certainly the districts that lie adjacent to the seats in question stand a good chance of changing, particularly in the urban areas where multiple districts converge at a single point like in Orlando. By definition, if one district is altered, at least one other bordering seat must also change.
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