Articles Posted in Election Law

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This case involved statutory interpretation concerning application of the reporting requirements contained in the Washington Fair Campaign Practices Act (FCPA), chapter 42.17A RCW. The specific issue presented was how the FCPA reporting requirements in RCW 42.17A.255 and the definition in RCW 42.17A.005(4) ("ballot proposition") were to be applied in the context of local initiatives. In 2014, Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF) staff created sample municipal ordinances and ballot propositions for citizens to use to advance certain causes to their local city councils or commissions. Local residents in the cities of Sequim, Chelan, and Shelton used those samples in filing two ballot propositions in each city, one to require collective bargaining negotiation sessions to be publicly conducted and the second to prohibit union security clauses in city collective bargaining agreements. The proponents submitted the proposed measures to their local city clerks along with signatures they had gathered in support of the measures, and asked their respective city councils or commissions either to pass the measures as local ordinances or, if the councils or commissions did not agree, to alternatively place each measure on the local ballot for a vote. None of the cities passed the measures as ordinances or placed the ballot propositions on the local ballots. In response, EFF employees, who were attorneys, participated in lawsuits against each jurisdiction on behalf of the local resident proponents, each suit seeking a judicial directive to the respective city to put each measure on the local ballot. Each lawsuit ended in a superior court dismissing the case, and those decisions were not appealed. EFF did not file any campaign finance disclosure reports identifying the value of the legal services it provided to the resident proponents in support of the local ballot propositions. The State conducted an investigation and then filed a civil regulatory enforcement action against EFF alleging EFF failed to report independent expenditures it made in support of the noted local ballot propositions. The Washington Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals' reversal of the trial court's 12(b)(6) dismissal of the State's regulatory enforcement action under the FCPA: under the circumstances of this case, EFF's pro bono legal services were reportable. The applicable reporting statutes were not unconstitutionally vague, nor did their application here violate EFF's First Amendment rights. View "Washington v. Evergreen Freedom Found." on Justia Law

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End Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC) argued that the ballot title for a King County property tax increase lacked information required by former RCW 84.55.050 (2012). The Washington Supreme Court found that RCW 29A.36.090 required ballot title objections be raised within 10 days of the public filing of that ballot title. EPIC's claim was brought nearly 4 years after the ballot title at issue in this case was filed, was was therefore deemed untimely. The Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and affirmed the judgment of the superior court. View "End Prison Indus. Complex v. King County" on Justia Law

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Proposed Initiative 27 (I-27) would have allowed King County, Washington voters to decide whether to ban public funding for community health engagement location (CHEL) sites, colloquially known as safe injection sites, and to create civil liability for any person or entity who operates a site. The King County Superior Court granted respondent Protect Public Health's ("PPH") motion for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief, and enjoined King County from placing I-27 on the ballot. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review was whether the proposed initiative was beyond the scope of the local initiative power. The Court affirmed the superior court, holding I-27 was outside the scope of local initiative power because it improperly interfered with the budgetary authority of the King City Council. View "Protect Pub. Health v. Freed" on Justia Law

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Washington voters referred Initiative 940 ("I-940") to the Legislature; I-940 was an initiative concerning police reform. The legislature also passed a conditional bill, ESHB 3003, purporting to prospectively amend 1-940 if it passed later-in this case, just a few minutes later. But that conditional, prospective bill violated the explicit language and allocation of legislative power contained in article II, section 1 of the Washington Constitution. A divided Washington Supreme Court majority affirmed a superior court's decision to issue a writ of mandamus compelling the Washington Secretary of State to place I-940 on the ballot. View "Eyman v. Wyman" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Washington Supreme Court was whether the superior court erred in ruling that 29A.80.061 was invalid under the First Amendment. Also at issue was whether the bill containing the statute violated the single subject or subject in title requirements of article II, section 19 of the Washington Constitution. RCW 29A.80.061 requires political parties to elect, rather than appoint, legislative district chairs for each legislative district. Appellant Andrew Pilloud, acting pro se, sought to enforce the statute against the King County Republican Central Committee (Committee), which, by bylaw, had long chosen to appoint its legislative district chairs. The superior court concluded that the statute violated a political party's right to free association under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Pilloud appealed this decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding RCW 29A.80.061 violated the Committee's freedom of association. View "Pilloud v. King County Republican Cent. Comm." on Justia Law

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Yakima County Clerk Janelle Riddle appealed a trial court's ruling that five out of the six recall charges filed against her were factually and legally sufficient. Riddle was elected on in late 2014, defeating incumbent Kim Eaton. Riddle attributed many of the challenges she faced to Yakima County's early adoption of new case management software called “Odyssey.” Yakima County had received approval to be "an early adopter site" for Odyssey about a year before Riddle's election. Odyssey was implemented in November 2015. And although most of the early adopter sites for Odyssey encountered some difficulties in its implementation, the Yakima County Clerk's Office had the most difficulty making the transition. Another source of difficulty for Riddle has been her ongoing disagreement with other Yakima County officials, particularly the superior court judges, about the scope of Riddle's powers and duties as clerk. This disagreement prompted the Yakima County Superior Court to pass five new local administrative rules regarding the powers and duties of the clerk on an emergency basis. In May 2017, about two and a half years into Riddle's four-year term, the recall petitioners filed a statement of charges against Riddle, largely alleging Riddle failed to transmit court orders as required by statute, refused to perform in-court duties and threatened to shut down the Yakima County Superior Court, and failed to properly collect and account for clerk's office revenue. The Washington Supreme Court granted the recall petitioners' motion for accelerated review and found the five remaining recall charges legally sufficient. View "In re Recall of Riddle" on Justia Law

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Robbin Taylor filed a statement of charges seeking recall of Black Diamond City council member Patricia Pepper. In November 2015, Pepper defeated opponent Ron Taylor (husband of Robbin Taylor) in an election for Black Diamond City Council in King County. Beginning in January 2016, a chasm developed with Mayor Carol Benson and council members Tamie Deady and Janie Edelman on one side, and a majority of the city council - Pepper, Erika Morgan, and Brian Weber - on the other. After Pepper, Morgan, and Weber passed R-1069, they voted to fire city attorney Carol Morris. Upon passing R-1069, Pepper and a majority of the council made decisions to alter contracts regarding the Master Development Review Team (MDRT) contracts for two large development projects planned in Black Diamond that had been approved by Mayor Benson and former council members. Mayor Benson hired emergency interim city attorney Yvonne Ward. Ward submitted two memoranda to the council, concluding that R-1069 violated the Black Diamond Municipal Code (BDMC) and the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA), chapter 42.30 RCW. The council had also received advice from prior city attorney Morris and from the city's risk management pool that the resolution could create liability for the city if council members violated the OPMA. Ultimately, the council's decision to enact R-1069 and revisit the MDRT contracts, among other actions, led to a lawsuit: MDRT contractor CCD Black Diamond Partners LLC (Oakpointe) filed suit against the city and council members Pepper, Morgan, and Weber, alleging violations of the OPMA, which has led to litigation and costs for the city. Pepper was a member of council standing committees; allegations were made that Pepper, Morgan, and Weber held secret council and standing committee meetings conducting city business in violation of the OPMA. After approximately a year and a half of tensions, Taylor filed a statement of charges with the King County Elections Division, requesting Pepper's recall. The superior court ruled that four of those charges were factually and legally sufficient to support a recall petition. Pepper appealed. After review, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's decision with regard to the first three charges, but reversed with regard to the fourth charge. View "In re Recall of Pepper" on Justia Law

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In 2013, Envision Spokane gathered enough signatures to place a local initiative on the ballot that would establish a "Community Bill of Rights." Petitioners filed this declaratory judgment action challenging the validity of the Envision Initiative. The petitioners included Spokane County, individual residents of Spokane (including two city council members acting in their individual capacities), for-profit corporations and companies in Spokane (including Pearson Packaging Systems and the utility company A vista Corporation), and nonprofit associations (including the Spokane Association of Realtors, the Spokane Building Owners and Managers Association, the Spokane Home Builders Association, and local chambers of commerce). The trial judge ruled that (1) petitioners had standing to challenge the initiative and (2) the initiative exceeded the scope of the local initiative power. She therefore instructed that it be struck from the ballot. Envision Spokane appealed, and the Court of Appeals held that petitioners lacked standing and ordered the initiative be put on the next available ballot. The first issue before the Supreme Court in this case was who has standing to bring those types of challenges. The Supreme Court found that the Court of Appeals created new limits on who can bring such challenges, but the Supreme Court reversed and adhered to existing standards because they adequately ensured that only those affected by an ordinance may challenge it. Applying those existing standards, the Supreme Court found that petitioners in this case had standing to bring this challenge. The second issue in this case was the substance of the petitioners' challenge: whether the initiative's subject matter fell within the scope of authority granted to local residents. The Court affirmed the trial court's finding that this local initiative exceeds the scope of local initiative power and should not have been put on the ballot. View "Spokane Entrepreneurial Ctr. v. Spokane Moves to Amend the Constitution" on Justia Law

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Appellants sought to reverse a superior court order denying appellants' motion to enjoin the secretary of state from placing Initiative 1366 (I-1366) on the November 2015 general election ballot. Appellants claimed the initiative went beyond the scope of the people’s initiative power under article II, section 1 of the Washington constitution and was therefore not proper for direct legislation. The trial court ruled that: ( 1) appellants had standing to challenge the initiative as taxpayers, county election officials, and legislators; (2) this was a challenge to the scope of the initiative and therefore appropriate for preelection review; (3) the "fundamental, stated and overriding purpose" of I-1366 was to amend the constitution in violation of article II of the state constitution; (4) I-1366 violated article XXIII of the state constitution; and (5) appellants were unable to show a "clear legal or equitable right" to an injunction under “Rabon v. City of Seattle,” ( 957 P.2d 621 (1998)), because the Supreme Court had yet to decide whether preelection restrictions on initiatives infringe on free speech rights under the First Amendment or article I, section 5 of the Washington constitution. After review, the Washington Court determined that appellants did not make a clear showing that the subject matter of the initiative was not within the broad scope of the people's power of direct legislation and, as such, failed to demonstrate a clear legal right for injunctive relief. The Court therefore affirmed the trial court. View "Huff v. Wyman" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-retired justices Robert Utter and Faith Ireland sued the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), alleging that BIAW violated Washington's Fair Campaign Practices Act (FCPA), chapter 42.17 A RCW, in part by failing to register as a political committee during the 2007-2008 campaign season. The trial court granted BIAW' s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the case on the ground that there was no material factual dispute and BIAW was entitled to judgment as a matter of law, but it denied BIAW's request for attorney fees. The Court of Appeals ultimately affirmed, stating in dicta that there was an issue of fact as to whether BIAW met the statutory definition of a "political committee," but held only that the plaintiffs' case did not meet the procedural prerequisites to filing a citizen suit. The Court of Appeals also affirmed the trial court's denial of BIAW's request for attorney fees. Plaintiffs petitioned the Washington Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court reversed, holding that: (1) plaintiffs' suit was not procedurally barred under Washington's citizen suit provision; and (2) plaintiffs presented sufficient evidence to raise a genuine issue of material fact about whether BIAW met the statutory definition of a "political committee." View "Utter v. Bldg. Indus. Ass'n of Wash." on Justia Law