Articles Posted in Election Law

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James Wright, who sought election for the office of Mayor in the City of Miami Gardens, tendered a check to qualify as a candidate for the office. The check was returned due to a banking error. After qualifying had ended, Wright was informed of this bank error. Pursuant to Fla. Stat. 99.061(7)(a)1., Wright was disqualified. Wright filed this action seeking declaratory and mandamus relief against the City, the City Clerk, and the Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections (collectively, Defendants). Specifically, Wright sought to require Defendants to recognize him as a properly and validly qualified candidate for the office of Mayor in the August 30 election. The trial court denied relief, concluding that section 99.061(7)(a)1. explicitly required the City Clerk to disqualify Wright. The Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding that the law unconstitutionally erects a barrier that is an unnecessary restraint on one’s right to seek elective office. The Court, therefore, severed the portion of section 14 of chapter 2011-40, Laws of Florida, that amends section 99.061(7)(a)1. of the Florida Statues and, thus, the version of section 99.061(7)(a)1. in existence prior to the 2011 amendments was revived by operation of law. View "Wright v. City of Miami Gardens" on Justia Law

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Tyron Francois, a Democrat, filed paperwork to run as a write-in candidate for Broward County Commission for District 2. A resident voter filed a complaint alleging that Francois was not properly qualified to be a write-in candidate because he did not physically live within the boundaries of the district as required by Fla. Stat. 99.0615. In response, Francois argued that section 99.0615 is facially unconstitutional. The circuit court found that section 99.0615 is constitutional and disqualified Francois as a write-in candidate. The Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that the statute is facially unconstitutional because the timing of its residency requirement for write-in candidates conflicts with the timing of the residency requirement for county commission candidates as established by Fla. Const. art. VIII, 1(e). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 99.0615 contravenes the residency requirement applicable to county commissioners under Fla. Const. art. VIII, 1(e), and thus Francois properly qualified as a write-in candidate; and (2) write-in candidates are included within the intended meaning of “opposition” as used in a different constitutional provision, and therefore, it was appropriate for the Democratic Party’s primary election to be closed to only Democratic-registered voters. View "Brinkmann v. Francois" on Justia Law

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This opinion was intended to bring finality to litigation concerning the state’s congressional redistricting that has spanned nearly four years in state courts. This case was before the Supreme Court for approval of a final congressional districting plan in accordance with the Court’s previous opinion in Apportionment VII and the Fair Districts Amendment. The Court approved in full the trial court’s “Order Recommending Adoption of a Remedial Map,” and directed that the plan approved here shall be used in the 2016 congressional elections and thereafter until the next decennial redistricting. In so doing, the Court rejected the Legislature’s contention that this decision moves the “goalposts” on the Legislature in its redrawing of the districts and dismissed the contention that the courts adopted a plan drawn by “Democratic operatives.” View "League of Women Voters v. Detzner" on Justia Law

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A trial court found that the Legislature’s 2012 congressional redistricting plan was drawn in violation of the Florida Constitutional’s prohibition on partisan intent because Florida’s twenty-seven congressional districts were apportioned in such a way as to favor the Republican Party and incumbent lawmakers. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the trial court’s finding that the Legislature’s enacted map was tainted by unconstitutional intent; but (2) reversed the trial court’s order upholding the Legislature’s remedial redistricting plan, as the court failed to give proper legal effect to its determination that the Fair Districts Amendment was violated. Remanded to the trial court with directions that it require the Legislature to redraw certain congressional districts pursuant to the guidelines set forth in this opinion. View "League of Women Voters of Fla. v. Detzner" on Justia Law

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In 2012, individuals and groups challenging the constitutional validity of a 2012 congressional redistricting plan issued a subpoena duces tecum to Pat Bainter, the president of Data Targeting, Inc., a political consulting company. The challengers sought certain documents in the possession of Bainter, Data Targeting, and the company's employees (collectively, Appellants) related to the redistricting litigation. Bainter did not file a motion for a protective order or raise any legal objection to producing the documents sought by the challengers but instead attended a deposition testifying that he had produced what he had found, which was a limited amount. After being served with additional subpoenas duces tecum including the disputed documents within their scope, and during six months of hearings and filings regarding document production, Appellants did not raise any claim of a First Amendment privilege. It was only after Appellants were held in contempt of court that Appellants raised a belated claim of a qualified First Amendment privilege. Ultimately, the trial court ordered that Appellants produce 538 pages of the disputed documents. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, based on the totality of the circumstances, Appellants’ belated assertions of a qualified First Amendment privilege had been waived. View "Bainter v. League of Women Voters of Fla." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought lawsuits challenging the validity of the 2012 congressional apportionment plan (Plan) under the Florida Constitution's redistricting standards. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether Florida state legislators and legislative staff members had an absolute privilege against testifying as to issues directly relevant to whether the Legislature drew the Plan with unconstitutional partisan or discriminatory intent. The circuit court permitted the discovery of information and communications, including the testimony of legislators, pertaining to the constitutional validity of the Plan. The court of appeal reversed, holding that the legislators had the absolute protection of a legislative privilege. The Supreme Court quashed the court of appeal's decision and approved the circuit court's order, holding (1) Florida recognizes a legislative privilege founded on the constitutional principle of separation of powers; but (2) this privilege is not absolute where, as in this case, the purposes underlying the privilege are outweighed by the compelling, competing interest of effectuating the explicit constitutional mandate that prohibits partisan political gerrymandering and improper discriminatory intent in redistricting.View "League of Women Voters of Fla. v. Fla. House of Representatives" on Justia Law

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Petitioners filed a petition for extraordinary writ relief concerning certain documents in the possession of Respondents, non-parties to litigation regarding the constitutional validity of the 2012 plan apportioning Florida’s congressional districts under the Fair Districts Amendments. Petitioners contended that the documents demonstrated “the surreptitious participation of partisan operatives in the apportionment process," but the First District Court of Appeal precluded the admission of the documents. The Supreme Court granted relief to Petitioners and stayed the enforcement of the First District’s order, holding that the circuit court was not precluded from admitting the documents into evidence, subject to a proper showing of relevancy, but that the court must maintain the confidentiality of the documents by permitting disclosure or use only under seal in a courtroom closed to the public. View "League of Women Voters v. Data Targeting, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2010, voters approved an amendment to the Florida Constitution providing for express new state constitutional standards to govern the apportionment of legislative districts. Those standards were enumerated in Fla. Const. art. III, 21. Pursuant to its Fla. Const. art. III, 16 jurisdiction, the Supreme Court declared the Legislature's original plan apportioning districts for the Senate to be facially invalid, whereupon the Legislature adopted a revised plan. The Supreme Court upheld the facial validity of the revised plan. Plaintiffs subsequently filed a complaint alleging that the revised Senate map violated the express standards contained in article III, section 21. The Legislature moved to dismiss the complaint with prejudice, asserting that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate a challenge to the 2012 legislative apportionment plan. After the circuit court denied the motion, the Legislature sought extraordinary relief directing the circuit court to dismiss the complaint. The Supreme Court held that the circuit court had subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate fact-based challenges to the validity of the 2012 legislative apportionment plan, that the circuit court's exercise of jurisdiction here would not interfere with the binding judgment of the Supreme Court, and that the Legislature failed to meet its burden of demonstrating entitlement to relief. View "Fla. House of Representatives v. League of Women Voters of Fla. " on Justia Law

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This case was before the court for review of the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Snipes v. Telli, which held that the Florida Constitution permitted Broward County to impose term limits on the office of the county commissioner. Because the court receded from its decision in Cook v. City of Jacksonville, the court approved the Fourth District's decision and held that Broward County's term limits did not violate Florida's Constitution. View "Telli v. Broward County, et al." on Justia Law