Maine Supreme Court Will Hear Ranked-Choice Lawsuit on April 13

The Maine Supreme Court will hear arguments over the initiative that passed last year, setting up Ranked-Choice Voting. Opponents of RCV argue that the initiative violates the State Constitution. This web page of the Maine state court system has links to all the briefs. The Attorney General and the Secretary of State argue that the State Constitution must be changed before RCV can be implemented. The legislature would be free to put proposed amendments to the Constitution on the November 2017 ballot, if it wished to.

The case is OJ-17-1, In the Matter of Request for Opinion of the Justices. It is always possible the court will hear oral arguments and then decide that it doesn’t have jurisdiction to decide anything just now.

Federal Election Commission Unlikely to Change its Mind about Commission on Presidential Debates

On March 23, staff attorneys for the Federal Election Commission presented a 25-page analysis of whether the FEC should require the Commission on Presidential Debate to revise its 15% poll requirement for invitations into the general election debates. The analysis recommends against any change. It concludes, “the Commission concludes that the petition does not present credible evidence that a 15% threshold is so unobtainable by independent or third-party candidates that it is per se subjective or intended to exclude them.”

It also says, “While the reports by Dr. Young and Mr. Schoen, in addition to the historical polling and campaign finance data presented with the petition, demonstrate certain challenges that independent candidates may face when seeking the presidency, these submissions do not demonstrate either that the threshold is so high that only Democratic and Republican nominees could reasonably achieve it, or that the threshold is intended to result in the selection of those nominees to participate in the debates.”

Because this is the only draft prepared by the FEC staff, it is likely that the Commission will adopt this draft. Generally when the FEC Commissioners are divided on an issue, they ask the staff to prepare several drafts that come to different and varying conclusions.

The draft says nothing whatsoever about the political behavior or public statements of the commissioners of the CPD.

Cheri Honkala Says She Will Ask Federal Court to Take Jurisdiction of Special Legislative Election Violations

On March 23, Cheri Honkala, the Green Party nominee for the March 21 special election for Pennsylvania House, 197th district, said she will sue Philadelphia election officials and others for many instances of voter intimidation and mishandling of ballots. See this story. The Republican nominee has also asked that the ballots be sealed, but she has apparently not yet said that she will sue. Thanks to Rick Hasen for the link.

Lawsuit Filed by Bernie Sanders Supporters Against Democratic Party Is Still Pending

On June 28, 2016, some Bernie Sanders voters and delegates sued the Democratic Party in federal court, alleging that the party conspired to injure the chances of Sanders as he sought the Democratic presidential nomination. The party is attempting to get the case dismissed on jurisdictional grounds. The last brief was filed on October 14, 2016, but no action on the case has occurred since then.

The case is Wilding v Democratic National Committee services, s.d. Florida, 0:16cv-61511. The Judge is William D. Zloch, a Reagan appointee.

U.S. Supreme Court Won’t Hear Case on Whether Tucson Can Have District Nominations for City Council, but Then Elect Them Citywide

Tucson, Arizona, has partisan elections for city council. The unusual Tucson law provides that parties nominate in primaries within each district. But, in the general election, all the seats are contested citywide. The Ninth Circuit had originally ruled that this system violates the Constitution, but then the City of Tucson had asked for rehearing en banc, and the en banc panel upheld the system.

The voters who brought the lawsuit then asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case, but on March 20, the Court declined. The case was Public Integrity Alliance v City of Tucson, 16-730. Thanks to Michael Drucker for this news.

Tenth Circuit Delays Oklahoma Ballot Access Lawsuit, Because Legislature May Fix the Problem

Rocky De La Fuente and Jill Stein are currently litigating against Oklahoma in the Tenth Circuit, over the law that required them to collect over 40,000 signatures in 2016. The case is De La Fuente v Ziriax. On March 23, the Tenth Circuit issued permission for the state to postpone filing its response brief until the legislative session is over. The Tenth Circuit is aware that the State Senate already passed SB 145, which eliminates mandatory petitions for independent presidential candidates, and the nominees of unqualified parties, if they pay a large filing fee. If the bill passes the House and is signed by the Governor, that will moot the case.