Articles Posted in Election Law

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The State appealed a superior court order granting news reporter Nicholas Reid’s (Reid) motion to quash the State’s subpoena compelling him to testify against defendant Carl Gibson. Republican candidate Yvonne Dean-Bailey (Dean-Bailey) was running in a May 19, 2015 special election for State Representative from Rockingham County District 32. On May 14, 2015, the defendant, a volunteer for the opposing Democratic Party candidate, allegedly issued a false press release stating that Dean-Bailey was dropping out of the race. Reid, who was covering the special election as a reporter for the Concord Monitor, received the e-mail with the attached press release and became suspicious because of the form and content of the e-mail and attached file. He contacted a representative of the New Hampshire Republican Party who was unaware of Dean-Bailey withdrawing from the race. Reid then wrote a short article for the May 15, 2015 issue of the newspaper titled “Email claiming Dean-Bailey is conceding called a hoax.” Reid reviewed the metadata of the press release which lead to him finding a way to contact Gibson. Based upon that conversation and his conversations with other sources, Reid wrote a second article published in the Concord Monitor on May 16 under the headline, “Man who sent hoax email from GOP candidate had ‘too many beers’ before ‘prank.’” Defendant was ultimately charged with “False Documents, Names or Endorsements,” attempted voter suppression, and voter suppression. Reid was served with a subpoena requiring him “to testify what [he] know[s] relating to a criminal matter to be heard and tried between the State . . . and Carl Gibson.” Reid moved to quash the subpoena on the ground that it violated his “newsgathering privilege” under Part I, Article 22 of the New Hampshire Constitution and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. On appeal, the State argued that the trial court erred “by expanding the scope of the news-gathering privilege to include non-confidential sources.” Although Reid based his motion to quash upon the ground that it violated his newsgathering privilege under the State and Federal Constitutions, the trial court based its decision solely upon the State Constitution. The New Hampshire Supreme Court held the trial court’s determination was erroneous, and remanded for the trial court to consider, in the first instance, Reid’s federal constitutional claim. View "New Hampshire v. Gibson" on Justia Law

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Pro-se plaintiff Deborah Sumner appealed a superior court order denying her Right-to-Know Law request put to the New Hampshire Secretary of State. The order also granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Sumner sought to inspect ballots cast in the town of Jaffrey during the 2012 general election. The Secretary denied her request, citing RSA 659:95, II (Supp. 2015), which exempted ballots which have been cast from the Right-to-Know Law. On appeal, Sumner argued that RSA 659:95, II, along with RSA 660:16, II (2008) and RSA 669:33, II (2008) (collectively, “the ballot exemption statutes”), violated several articles of the New Hampshire Constitution. After review, the Supreme Court held that the ballot exemption statutes did not violate the State constitution, and, therefore, affirmed. View "Deborah Sumner v. New Hampshire Secretary of State" on Justia Law

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In 2015, the Town of Grafton's three-member selectboard reviewed and discussed the 36 warrant articles to be placed on the ballot for the annual Town meeting scheduled for March 10, including 20 articles that plaintiffs had petitioned to include on the ballot. At the January 20 meeting, one selectboard member moved that the ballot include the phrase “the Selectmen do not recommend this article” relative to each of the plaintiffs’ warrant articles. The motion passed unanimously. On March 5, the plaintiffs filed their petition for injunctive and declaratory relief. The trial court held a final hearing on offers of proof and, on March 9, denied the petition, concluding that RSA 32:5, V-a authorized the Town to place recommendations on any warrant article. Plaintiff Jeremy Olson appealed a superior court order denying a petition he and co-plaintiffs, Thomas Ploszaj, Christopher Kairnes, and Howard Boucher filed for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Town. On appeal, Olson argued that the trial court erroneously determined that it was lawful for the Town to include on the official ballot for the annual Town meeting the phrase, “The Selectmen do not recommend this article,” below each of the plaintiffs’ 20 warrant articles, which the plaintiffs had petitioned to include on the ballot. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Olson v. Town of Grafton" on Justia Law

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The State appealed a superior court order denying its motion for summary judgment and granting that of petitioners, Annemarie. Guare, Cody Blesedell, Garret Healey, Joan Ashwell, and the League of Women Voters, on their petition for declaratory and injunctive relief. When this case was decided by the trial court, petitioners Guare, Blesedell, and Healey were students enrolled at the University of New Hampshire, and petitioner Ashwell was a volunteer with the New Hampshire League of Women Voters. The order on appeal made permanent a preliminary injunction issued in 2012, pursuant to which the State was required to delete from the standard voter registration form the following language: “In declaring New Hampshire as my domicile, I am subject to the laws of the state of New Hampshire which apply to all residents, including laws requiring a driver to register a motor vehicle and apply for a New Hampshire[ ] driver’s license within 60 days of becoming a resident.” The trial court issued the permanent injunction after concluding that the challenged language violated Part I, Article 11 of the New Hampshire Constitution. On appeal, the State did not challenge the trial court’s issuance of injunctive relief. Rather, the State focused its appellate arguments to the trial court’s determination that the challenged language violated Part I, Article 11. Finding that the challenged language unreasonably burdened the fundamental right to vote, and because, the State failed to advance a "sufficiently weighty interest" to justify the language, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s determination that the challenged language violated Part I, Article 11 of the State Constitution. View "Guare v. New Hampshire" on Justia Law

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In September 2010, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office received information regarding polling telephone calls made to New Hampshire residents that were described as containing negative content about United States congressional candidate Ann McLane Kuster. The AG investigated, and concluded that the Bass Victory Committee (he authorized campaign committee of former United States Congressman Charles F. Bass) had engaged in “push-polling” as defined in RSA 664:2, XVII (2008) (amended 2014) without complying with the disclosure requirements set forth in RSA 664:16-a. The Attorney General appealed a superior court order that dismissed his petition for civil penalties against the Committee. The AG argued that the trial court erroneously determined that the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) preempted RSA 664:16-a. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "New Hampshire Attorney General v. Bass Victory Committee " on Justia Law

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Plaintiff William O'Brien appealed a Superior Court order that granted summary judgment in favor of the New Hampshire Democratic Party and Raymond Buckley, Chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, and denied plaintiff’s motion. The trial court ruled that plaintiff, who was a Republican candidate for re-election to the New Hampshire House of Representatives, did not have standing to file an action for damages under RSA 664:14-a (2008), the "Robocall Statute." In light of the fact that the Democratic party had fewer candidates than it had spaces on the November ballot, plaintiff sought "Democratic write-in votes in the September 14, 2010, primary so that he could appear on the ballot in the November cycle for elections as both (R)epublican and (D)emocrat." The day before the primary, defendants called 394 households with a prerecorded political message. Plaintiff received the highest number of votes in the Republican primary, winning a place on the general election ballot as a Republican. He did not secure enough votes in the Democratic Primary to also appear on the November ballot as a Democrat. In the general election, plaintiff won a seat in the House of Representatives. Plaintiff filed a complaint with the office of the Attorney General, alleging that defendants violated the Robocall Statute, because they were "responsible for calls containing a prerecorded political message that lacked the statutorily required disclosures." In August 2011, the Democratic Party entered into a consent agreement with the attorney general to resolve claims for the alleged violation of the statute; the agreement was not an admission that defendants violated the statute. On appeal, plaintiff argued that the trial court erred in dismissing the lawsuit and denying his motion for summary judgment. He contended that the plain language of the statute was broad and intended to include candidates who are the subject of a prerecorded political message. Alternatively, he claimed that, even if the statute was deemed to be ambiguous, the legislative history did not support the trial court’s interpretation. The Supreme Court concluded after its review that plaintiff did not allege an injury flowing from the alleged statutory violation. Therefore, he did not have standing. The Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's decision. View "O'Brien v. New Hampshire Democratic Party " on Justia Law

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Consolidated cases were brought before the Supreme Court on interlocutory transfer without a ruling from the superior court. Petitioners are New Hampshire voters and the towns and municipalities in which some of them live. They sought a declaration that Laws 2012 Chapter 9 violated the State Constitution. After thorough review of the record, the Supreme Court determined that the petitioners did not meet their burden of proving that the redistricting plan in Laws 2012 Chapter 9 violated the State Constitution, therefore, they were not entitled to the declaration they sought. View "City of Manchester v. Secretary of State " on Justia Law