Articles Posted in Election Law

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The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Representative Doug Lamborn could not appear on the primary ballot in his district because of a problem with his ballot petitions. The Court ruled a petition circulator working for Lamborn’s campaign did not live in the state at the time, rendering the signatures he gathered invalid and moving Lamborn below the threshold for ballot access in his district. The Supreme Court concluded the district erred when it focused on the challenged circulator’s subjective intent to move back to Colorado, rather than the test set forth in section 1-2-102, C.R.S. (2017) when determining the circulator’s residency. In applying the correct test to the essentially undisputed facts here, the Court reversed the district court’s ruling. Furthermore, the Supreme Court held the Colorado Secretary of State could not certify Representative Lamborn to the 2018 primary ballot for Colorado’s Fifth Congressional District. View "Kuhn v. Williams" on Justia Law

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The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Representative Doug Lamborn could not appear on the primary ballot in his district because of a problem with his ballot petitions. The Court ruled a petition circulator working for Lamborn’s campaign did not live in the state at the time, rendering the signatures he gathered invalid and moving Lamborn below the threshold for ballot access in his district. The Supreme Court concluded the district erred when it focused on the challenged circulator’s subjective intent to move back to Colorado, rather than the test set forth in section 1-2-102, C.R.S. (2017) when determining the circulator’s residency. In applying the correct test to the essentially undisputed facts here, the Court reversed the district court’s ruling. Furthermore, the Supreme Court held the Colorado Secretary of State could not certify Representative Lamborn to the 2018 primary ballot for Colorado’s Fifth Congressional District. View "Kuhn v. Williams" on Justia Law

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Alliance for a Safe and Independent Woodmen Hills bought ads and social-media coverage in an election. Campaign Integrity Watchdog filed a complaint with the Colorado Secretary of State against Alliance, alleging that Alliance failed to comply with Colorado’s campaign-finance laws requiring political committees to report contributions and expenditures. An Administrative Law Judge, or ALJ, ultimately ordered Alliance to pay fines and register as a political committee. Alliance appealed the campaign-finance decision and defended itself in a related defamation suit, racking up hundreds of dollars in court costs and thousands in legal fees. Alliance didn’t report those legal expenses. Watchdog filed another campaign-finance complaint; the ALJ concluded that the legal expenses were not reportable as expenditures but were reportable as contributions. Nonetheless, it ruled that the contribution-reporting requirement was unconstitutional as applied to Alliance for its post-election legal expenses. Watchdog appealed the ALJ’s determinations regarding the reporting requirements, and the court of appeals asked the Colorado Supreme Court to take the appeal directly under C.A.R. 50. After its review, the Supreme Court affirmed the ALJ’s decision that the legal expenses were not expenditures but were contributions under Colorado law. However, the Court reversed the ALJ’s determination that the reporting requirement was unconstitutional as applied to Alliance for its legal expenses: “The Supreme Court of the United States has consistently upheld disclosure and reporting requirements for political committees that exist primarily to influence elections. It makes no difference here that the contributions were not used to directly influence an election - any contribution to a political committee that has the major purpose of influencing an election is deemed to be campaign related and thus justifies the burden of disclosure and reporting.” Accordingly, the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the ALJ’s decision in part and reversed in part. View "Campaign Integrity Watchdog v. Alliance for a Safe and Independent" on Justia Law

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Jonathan Anderson, a lawyer, filed a termination report for Coloradans for a Better Future without requiring payment for his legal work, and “Better Future” didn’t report his service as a contribution. Campaign Integrity Watchdog complained to Colorado’s Secretary of State that Better Future should have done so. An Administrative Law Judge, or ALJ, dismissed Watchdog’s complaint on the merits. The court of appeals reversed in part, holding that Anderson’s service counted as a “contribution” to Better Future as the term was defined in section 1-45-103(6), C.R.S. (2017), of the Fair Campaign Practices Act (“FCPA”). The court reasoned that if the service was donated, it was a “gift” under section 1-45-103(6)(c)(I). If it was billed but not paid, it was an undercompensated service under section 1-45-103(6)(b). Either way, the service constituted a reportable contribution under the FCPA. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded the uncompensated legal services at issue here were not “contributions” to a political organization under Colorado’s campaign-finance laws. Accordingly, the court of appeals erred in holding that Better Future was required to report Anderson’s donated legal services. View "Coloradans for a Better Future v. Campaign Integrity Watchdog" on Justia Law

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Gordon Roy Butt sought to run for Colorado senate for the Libertarian Party in a 2013 recall election. The Secretary of State denied his request to circulate a petition because his request came after the deadline as then set by section 1-12-117(1). Butt and the Libertarian Party (collectively, “the Party”) sued the Secretary under section 1-1-113, C.R.S. (2017), alleging that the statutory deadline conflicted with the Colorado Constitution. Within the section 1-1-113 proceeding, the Party also raised a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. 1983 (2012), and an accompanying request for an award of attorney’s fees under 42 U.S.C. 1988 (2012), alleging, inter alia, a First Amendment violation. The district court found for the Party on the state constitutional claim, and did not address the section 1983 claim. After the Colorado Supreme Court denied appellate review on a split vote, further proceedings occurred before the district court. The case was appealed once again, and the Supreme Court denied review again. Nine months later, the Party returned to district court seeking summary judgment on its section 1983 claim and, in the alternative, an attorney’s fee award under section 1988 on the ground that the Party had been successful on its state constitutional claim. The district court denied the Party’s request for attorney’s fees, finding that it had not pursued fees in a timely manner. It also dismissed the section 1983 claim as moot due to the General Assembly’s 2014 amendment of section 1-12-117(1). The court of appeals reversed the district court, holding that although the Party’s section 1983 claim was moot, the request for attorney’s fees under section 1988 was appropriate so long as the section 1983 claim was substantial, stemmed from the same nucleus of operative facts as the state constitutional claim, and was reasonably related to the plaintiff’s ultimate success. The court remanded the case to the district court to apply this test to determine whether the Party was entitled to fees. The Colorado Secretary of State appealed, and the Supreme Court reversed: a section 1983 claim may not be brought in a section 1-1-113 proceeding. The language of that section repeatedly refers to "this code," meaning the Colorado Election Code. Therefore, a section 1-1-113 proceeding is limited to allegations of a “breach or neglect of duty or other wrongful act” under the election code itself. § 1-1-113(1). We emphasize that Colorado courts remain entirely open for adjudication of section 1983 claims, including on an expedited basis if a preliminary injunction is sought, and that therefore section 1-1-113 does not run afoul of the Supremacy Clause. View "Williams v. Libertarian Party" on Justia Law

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Ryan Frazier ran as a Republican candidate for United States Senate. After the Colorado Secretary of State determined that Frazier had not gathered enough sufficient signatures to appear on the ballot, Frazier challenged the Secretary’s determination under section 1-1-113, C.R.S. (2017), arguing that the Secretary improperly invalidated hundreds of signatures that substantially complied with the Colorado Election Code. Frazier also brought a claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 (2012) arguing that certain Colorado statutes prohibiting non-resident circulators from gathering signatures violated the First Amendment. Frazier filed an accompanying request for attorney’s fees as authorized by 42 U.S.C. 1988 (2012). The district court ruled that the Secretary had properly invalidated certain signatures such that Frazier could not appear on the primary ballot. Frazier then appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court, which remanded for reconsideration of a number of signatures under the appropriate standard. On remand, the district court found that additional signatures substantially complied with the code, providing Frazier with sufficient signatures to appear on the Republican primary ballot for United States Senate. No ruling was made on Frazier’s section 1983 claim. Frazier then sought attorney’s fees pursuant to section 1988. The Secretary opposed the fee request, arguing that federal claims such as section 1983 may not be brought in summary proceedings under section 1-1-113. The district court disagreed, finding Frazier was entitled to an award of attorney’s fees. The Colorado Supreme Court held that where the language of section 1-1-113 allows a claim to be brought against an election official who has allegedly committed a "breach or neglect of duty or other wrongful act" under the Colorado Election Code, it refers to a breach of duty or other wrongful action under the Colorado Election Code, not a section 1983 claim. "Colorado courts remain entirely open for the adjudication of section 1983 claims, including on an expedited basis if a preliminary injunction is sought, and that therefore section 1-1-113 does not run afoul of the Supremacy Clause." View "Frazier v. Williams" on Justia Law

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The Colorado Supreme Court held that under section 2(5)(a)(IV) of the Colorado Constitution, a campaign “contribution” required that: (1) something of value (2) be given to a candidate, directly or indirectly, (3) for the purpose of promoting the candidate’s nomination, retention, recall, or election. Here, a school district commissioned and paid for a "white paper" report supportive of the district’s reform agenda using public funds. Petitioner Julie Keim was a candidate for one of four open seats in the 2013 school board election. According to Keim, after the 2009 school board election, the District began implementing a conservative “reform agenda,” which she characterized as “[school] choice-focused” and supportive of charter schools. The 2011 election brought in three additional reform agenda board members; thereafter, the entire board and the District’s superintendent unanimously supported the reform agenda. In 2013, four school board seats were up for election. In February of that year, the District contracted with the American Enterprise Institute (“AEI”) to prepare a white paper about the school system. Shortly thereafter, Keim filed a campaign finance complaint against the District with the Secretary of State alleging the District “violated the [Fair Campaign Practices Act, "FCPA"] . . . by using district resources to influence the outcome of the school board election.” Because the school district did not give something, directly or indirectly, to any candidate when it publicly disseminated an email containing a link to the report, the Supreme Court concluded the school district did not make a prohibited “contribution” under Colorado campaign finance provisions. View "Keim v. Douglas County School District" on Justia Law

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Petitioners Scott Smith and D. Michael Kopp, both registered electors, appealed the actions of the Ballot Title Setting Board (“Title Board”) regarding the setting of the title and ballot title and submission clause for Proposed Initiative 2017–2018 #4 (“Initiative #4”). Issues for the Colorado Supreme Court’s review were: (1) Initiative #4 contained a single subject; and (2) whether the Supreme Court had authority to review an abstract prepared and submitted to the Title Board as required by section 1-40-105.5, C.R.S. (2016). The Court concluded: (1) the initiative indeed contained a single subject (the limitation of housing growth in Colorado); and (2) section 1-40-107 authorized the Court to review such an abstract. View "In the Matter of the Title, Ballot Title and Submission Clause for 2017" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Donna Johnson challenged the Ballot Title Board's decision to set the title, ballot title and submission clause for Initiatives 2015-2016 #132 and 133, contending that the titles did not satisfy the clear title requirement and they did not contain a single subject. If passed, the Initiatives, substantially similar in language and form, represented two of several redistricting concepts proposed by the Proponents during the 2016 election cycle. Both Initiatives would have amended article V, section 44 through 48 of the Colorado Constitution by restructuring or replacing the Colorado Reapportionment Commission. After review, the Colorado Supreme Court concluded that both of the proposed Initiatives encompassed multiple subjects in violation of Colorado law. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Title Board and remanded for revision. View "In re Title, Ballot Title & Submission Clause for 2015-2016 #132 & #133" on Justia Law

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Petitioner John Robinson challenged the Ballot Title Board's decision to set the title, ballot title and submission clause for Initiative 2015-2016 #156, contending that the title did not satisfy the clear title requirement and it did not contain a single subject. If passed, Initiative #156 would have added a new section to the Colorado Revised Statutes prohibiting state and local licensing authorities from issuing "a license to food store that offers for sale, in sealed containers for off-premises consumption," certain "intoxicants, namely marijuana, marijuana product, liquor, wine and malt liquor. After review, the Colorado Supreme Court concluded the title indeed violated the clear title requirement because it was confusing and failed to help voters decipher the purpose of the initiative, or to help voters decide whether to support or oppose it. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Title Board's setting of title for Initiative #156, and returned it to the Board for revision. View "In the Matter of the Title, Ballot Title & Submission Clause for 2015-2016 Initiative #156" on Justia Law