TagState courts

Ohio Democratic Party sues Ohio Secretary of State over primary election postponement

On March 17, 2020, the Democratic Party of Ohio and Kiara Sanders, a registered voter in Franklin County, filed suit against Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) in the state supreme court, alleging that LaRose was “patently and unambiguously without jurisdiction and legal authority to suspend, move, or set the date of Ohio’s 2020 presidential primary election.” They argued instead that the legal authority to set the date of the primary election rested with the state legislature.

The plaintiffs asked the court to do the following:
• Bar the secretary of state from setting a date for the 2020 primary election
• Order election administrators to accept and process absentee voting applications until 12:00 p.m. on April 25, 2020
• Order election administrators to direct local boards of elections to accept and count all valid absentee ballots postmarked on or before April 28, 2020, and received on or before May 8, 2020
• Order election administrators to accept and count all valid absentee ballots delivered personally by a voter or his or her family member on or before April 28, 2020
• Order the secretary of state to provide for prepaid postage for all absentee ballots and applications

Earlier this week, LaRose ordered the postponement of the primary from March 17, 2020, to June 2, 2020, after Ohio Health Director Dr. Amy Acton ordered the closure all polls on March 17 in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

This lawsuit is the latest in a series of actions surrounding the postponement of Ohio’s primary. On March 16 (before LaRose moved the state’s primary date) a group of private citizens filed suit in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas at the request of Governor Mike DeWine (R)seeking a postponement of the state’s primary election.

Judge Richard Frye declined to postpone the primary. Frye said, “There are too many factors to balance in this unchartered territory to say that we ought to take this away from the legislature and elected statewide officials, and throw it to a common pleas court judge in Columbus 12 hours before the election.”

In a joint press release issued shortly after 9:00 p.m., DeWine and LaRose said, “Logistically, under these extraordinary circumstances, it simply isn’t possible to hold an election tomorrow that will be considered legitimate by Ohioans. They mustn’t be forced to choose between their health and exercising their constitutional rights.” Shortly after 10:00 p.m., DeWine announced that polls would be closed on March 17 by Acton’s order.

In response to this announcement, a candidate for office in Wood County, Ohio, filed suit in the state supreme court, alleging that the postponement violated state election laws. Shortly before 4:00 a.m., the court rejected this argument, allowing the postponement to stand.

LaRose then issued a directive to election administrators postponing in-person voting to June 2, 2020. The absentee ballot application deadline was extended to May 26, and the postmark deadline was extended to June 1. The voter registration deadline, originally February 18, was left unchanged. All ballots already cast, either by mail or in person, would be counted as usual.

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) has appointed all seven justices on New York’s court of last resort

A court of last resort is the highest judicial body within a jurisdiction’s court system. It is a court with the highest appellate authority, meaning that its rulings are not subject to further review by another court. A court of last resort is often, but not always, referred to as a supreme court.

New York is one of those states which does not refer to their court of last resort as a supreme court. This can cause some confusion, as New York’s 62 highest general jurisdiction trial courts are named collectively the Supreme Court of the State of New York.

Founded in 1847, the New York Court of Appeals is the state’s court of last resort and has seven judgeships. As of September 2019, all seven justices on the court were appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), the 56th governor of New York. The current chief of the court is Janet DiFiore. The other six justices are Rowan Wilson, Michael Garcia, Leslie E. Stein, Eugene Fahey, Jenny Rivera, and Paul G. Feinman.

The seven justices of the New York Court of Appeals serve 14-year terms. New York uses a form of assisted appointment when selecting its justices for the Court of Appeals. Justices are appointed by the governor from a list of candidates provided by the New York Commission on Judicial Nomination. After appointment by the governor, candidates must get confirmation from the New York Senate.

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Candidate filing period for state offices ends in six states

The major-party filing deadline to run for elected office in Montana passed on March 9. That deadline was followed up on March 10 by filing deadlines in New Mexico and Oregon. Candidates running in Idaho, Iowa, and Nevada have until March 13 to file. Prospective candidates could file for the following offices:

  • U.S. Senate seats in Idaho, Iowa, Montana, New Mexico, and Oregon
  • U.S. House seats in all six states
  • State executive offices in Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Oregon
  • State legislative seats in all six states
  • State supreme court seats in all six states
  • Intermediate appellate court seats in Idaho, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, and Oregon

Ballotpedia is also covering local elections in parts of Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Oregon.

Primaries in Idaho and Oregon are being held on May 19. Iowa, Montana, and New Mexico are holding primaries on June 2. Nevada has its primary on June 9.

After these six filing deadlines, 21 states will have held statewide filing deadlines in the 2020 election cycle. The next statewide filing deadline is on March 16 in Maine.

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Georgia filing deadline is March 6

The major-party filing deadline to run for elected office in Georgia is on March 6, 2020. In Georgia, prospective candidates may file for the following offices:

• U.S. Senate (2 seats: 1 special election and 1 regular election)
• U.S. House (14 seats)
• Georgia Public Service Commission (2 seats)
• State Senate (56 seats)
• State House (180 seats)
• Georgia Supreme Court (3 seats)
• Georgia Court of Appeals (7 seats)

Ballotpedia is also covering local elections in the following areas:
• DeKalb County, Georgia
• DeKalb County School District
• Fulton County Schools
• Henry County Schools
• Muscogee County School District
• Savannah-Chatham County Public School System
• Cherokee County School District
• Clayton County Public Schools
• Cobb County School District
• Forsyth County Schools
• Gwinnett County Public Schools

The primary is scheduled for May 19, a primary runoff is scheduled for July 21 if needed, and the general election is scheduled for November 3, 2020. If needed, a general runoff election will be held on December 1, 2020, for state races and on January 5, 2021, for federal races.

Georgia’s statewide filing deadline is the 15th to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next statewide filing deadline is on March 9 in Montana.

Georgia has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

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22 of 149 congressional primaries on Super Tuesday advance to primary runoff

Five states held statewide primaries on March 3, 2020: Alabama, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, and Texas. In those states, 22 congressional races advanced to primary runoffs. Nine are Democratic primary runoffs, and 13 are Republican primary runoffs.

Alabama saw the highest percentage of primaries advance to primary runoffs. Of the six primaries on the ballot, four advanced to a primary runoff (67%)—three Republican primary runoffs and one Democratic primary runoff. Texas saw the next-highest percentage, with 17 of the 74 primaries advancing to a primary runoff (23%). North Carolina had one of 15 primaries advance to a primary runoff (7%). California does not hold primary runoffs. Arkansas’ congressional primaries were canceled for all four seats after one or fewer Democratic or Republican party candidates filed to run.

Overall, 149 primaries were held across a combined 117 seats up for election in the five states. California’s 25th Congressional District is up for regular and special election, and is counted twice in both figures. Of the primaries on the ballot, 47 were Republican primaries, 48 were Democratic primaries, and 54 were top-two primaries.

Entering the 2020 election, the U.S. Senate has 45 Democrats, 53 Republicans, and two independents who caucus with the Democratic Party. Thirty-five of the 100 Senate seats are up for election. A majority in the chamber requires 51 seats. The U.S. House has 232 Democrats, 197 Republicans, one independent, and five vacancies. All 435 seats are up for election. A majority in the chamber requires 218 seats.

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Henderson appointed to New Mexico Court of Appeals

Shammara Henderson (D), the first Black judge appointed to the New Mexico Court of Appeals, reportedly started hearing cases at the beginning of March. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) appointed Henderson to the court on February 14, 2020, following the retirement of former judge M. Monica Zamora (D) in January.

Henderson’s appointment to the intermediate appellate court is her first judicial position. She worked in the United States Attorney’s Office in New Mexico for six years before moving into private law practice in 2017. She served as the Associate General Counsel to former Gov. Bill Richardson (D) from 2008-2009.

The president of the New Mexico Black Lawyers Association, Aja Brooks, confirmed to The Associated Press that Henderson is the first African-American judge to be appointed to the state appeals court.

Henderson will finish the remainder of Zamora’s eight-year term which runs through the end of 2020. She must run in a partisan general election on Nov. 3, 2020, in order to remain on the court. A second position on the state Court of Appeals, currently held by Judge Zachary Ives, is also up for election this year. Both Ives and Henderson have filed to run.

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Indiana Supreme Court denies transfer of administrative law case

On February 24, 2020 the Indiana Supreme Court denied to take up the case of Indiana Department of Natural Resources v. Kevin Prosser. The case has spanned five years and three courts. The Indiana Supreme Court denied transfer of the case because “… (U)nder Indiana’s Administrative Orders and Procedures Act, if there is sufficient evidence in the record, a reviewing court must defer to an agency’s factfinding.” As a result, the ruling stands that the Indiana resident, Kevin Prosser, does not have the right to construct a sea wall on his Lake Manitou property.

In 2015, Prosser applied for a permit with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to construct a concrete sea wall on his Lake Manitou property in Rochester, Indiana. The Indiana DNR denied his application. The DNR claimed that the area was not a developed area under Indiana law and that construction would significantly affect wildlife, fish, and plant life at the site. Prosser claimed that a sea wall was necessary to protect his property because a dredging operation that had occurred in 1947 or 1948 had increased the overall length of Lake Manitou’s shoreline.

After the DNR denied his application, Prosser appealed for administrative review. A DNR administrative law judge affirmed the denial, and the Natural Resources Commission that position.

In response, Prosser sought judicial review in Fulton Circuit Court. The circuit court reversed the DNR’s denial of Prosser’s application. The DNR contended that the trial court erred in its reversal, and the case was then taken up by the Court of Appeals of Indiana. The Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s decision on August 1, 2019, denying Prosser’s application.

The Indiana Supreme Court denied transfer of the case, meaning that the denial of Prosser’s permit stands.

In a separate opinion, Justice Geoffrey Slaughter cast doubt on the process whereby Prosser’s permit was denied. Slaughter wrote that “Here, there was enough evidence to support the agency’s findings, so the trial court should have afforded the agency the deference the AOPA requires.” However, Slaughter also expressed “deep concerns with prevailing administrative law as codified in AOPA and interpreted by our courts.” Slaughter did not deny a future revisitation of delegation. He wrote, “In a future case, where the issues are raised and the arguments developed, I am open to entertaining legal challenges to this system for adjudicating the legal disputes that our legislature assigns agencies to resolve in the first instance, subject only to a highly circumscribed right of judicial review as set forth in the AOPA.”

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Okoloko joins Snohomish County Superior Court for the second time

On March 1, 2020, Edirin Okoloko joined the Snohomish County Superior Court for the second time in as many years. Gov. Jay Inslee (D) first appointed Okoloko to the court in September 2018 to replace retiring judge George N. Bowden. Okoloko held the position for just over a year until he lost a retention election to Anna Alexander in November 2019. Inslee again appointed Okoloko to the Snohomish County Superior Court on January 22, 2020, to replace retiring judge Linda C. Krese.

Before becoming a judge, Okoloko worked as the Snohomish County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for 13 years.

The Snohomish County Superior Court is one of 32 superior courts covering 39 counties in the state of Washington. According to the official website of the Washington court system, superior courts have “exclusive jurisdiction for felony matters, real property rights, domestic relations, estate, mental illness, juvenile, and civil cases over $50,000.”

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Seven seats up for election on Texas’ two courts of last resort

On March 3, 2020, Texans will have the opportunity to vote in primaries for six of the seven seats on Texas’ two courts of last resort holding elections this year.

Texas is unique in that it is one of two states in the nation with two courts of last resort: a Supreme Court and a Court of Criminal Appeals. The Texas Supreme Court is the court of last resort for civil matters. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is the state’s court of last resort for criminal matters. Both have nine judgeships.

A Republican primary will take place in the race for Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Place Three, featuring Bert Richardson and Gina Parker.

The Democratic primaries and candidates are:

  • Texas Supreme Court, Place One: Amy Clark Meachum and Jerry Zimmerer.
  • Texas Supreme Court, Place Six: Kathy Cheng and Larry Praeger.
  • Texas Supreme Court, Place Seven: Brandy Voss and Staci Williams.
  • Texas Supreme Court, Place Eight: Peter M. Kelly and Gisela Triana.
  • Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Place Three: William Demond, Elizabeth Davis Frizell, and Dan Wood.
  • Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Place Four: Tina Yoo Clinton and Steven Miears.

There will also be a general election for Place Nine on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Brandon Birmingham is running unopposed in the Democratic primary and David Newell is running unopposed in the Republican primary.

In addition to those primaries, Libertarian candidate Mark Ash will be running for Place 1 on the Supreme Court, Libertarian candidate William Brian Strange will be running for Place Seven of the Texas Supreme Court, and Libertarian candidate Tom Oxford will be running for Place Eight of the Texas Supreme Court.

The primary is scheduled for March 3, 2020, and a primary runoff is scheduled for May 26, 2020. The general election will occur on November 3, 2020.

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Wisconsin Supreme Court primary turnout at highest level in decades

Last week’s Wisconsin Supreme Court primary featured the highest turnout in at least 20 years, with just under 704,000 voters participating. The next-highest primary turnout during this period was in 2016 when 566,000 voters participated in the primary.

Since 2000, there have been 15 other elections for state Supreme Court, six of which had primaries (a Wisconsin Supreme Court primary is only held if more than two candidates file; the top two finishers in the primary advance to the general election).

Higher primary turnout has typically been associated with higher general election turnout. The 2016 general election had the highest turnout of any during this time period, including the nine without primaries, at 1.95 million. The record-low 278,000-voter turnout in the 2003 primary was followed by the lowest turnout in any general election where a primary was held.

Turnout in a general election has exceeded 1 million three time: in 2011, 2016, and 2019. The conservative-backed candidate won in all three elections. The three lowest turnout figures for contested elections during this time were in the 2009, 2003, and 2015 elections, ranging between 794,000 and 813,000. The liberal candidate-backed won in 2009 and 2015, while the conservative-backed candidate won in 2003.

Incumbent Daniel Kelly and Jill Karofsky were the top-two finishers in the Feb. 18 primary this year and will advance to the April 7 general election. Kelly received 50.1% of the primary vote. Of the six other primaries since 2000, a candidate received more than 50% of the vote in three. In all three, that candidate went on to win the general election.

This year’s general election coincides with Wisconsin’s April 7 presidential primaries. Eight notable Democrats are running in that party’s presidential primary as of Feb. 25. President Donald Trump will be the only candidate on the Republican presidential primary ballot.

The result of the state supreme court general election stands to impact future control of the court. A Kelly win would preserve the current 5-2 conservative majority. Assuming that no justices leave the bench early, this would prevent liberals from winning a majority on the court any earlier than 2026. A win for Karofsky would narrow the conservative majority to 4-3 and would mean that the 2023 election will decide control of the court.

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