Friday, July 12, 2013
The Ninth Circuit ruled this week in Townley v. Miller that plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge a Nevada law that allows voters to choose "None of these candidates," but does not count those votes in determining an election winner.
The ruling means that the case is dismissed and the challenge to the NOTC law goes away. NOTC stays on the books in Nevada. It's not obvious that the plaintiffs had any serious claim on the merits, anyway.
Nevada's NOTC law allows voters to register their preference for none-of-the-above by ticking the box for "none of these candidates" on an election ballot. The state counts these votes and reports them, but it doesn't use them to determine the winner of the election. Instead, these votes are treated as blank votes. Their value is in publicizing the extent of voter discontent with the named options on the ballot.
Plaintiffs challenged that portion of the NOTC law that says that NOTC votes aren't counted in determining the winner of an election. They said that this provision disenfranchises them--because it means that their NOTC votes don't count.
The Ninth Circuit dismissed the case, ruling that the plaintiffs lacked standing. Seven of the plaintiffs didn't say in the complaint that they had or would vote NOTC, and the court concluded that they didn't assert a sufficient injury in fact. Two plaintiffs said they would vote NOTC, but the court said that their case wouldn't redress their alleged harm. Those two plaintiffs asked the court to strike the NOTC option from the ballot entirely, and not just to order the state to count NOTC votes. The court said that this would only disenfranchise them more, not redress their claimed disenfranchisement. The remaining plaintiffs alleged competitive standing--standing based on a candidate's or party's challenge to the inclusion of an ineligible rival on the ballot--but the court said that their injuries (if any) were not caused by the NOTC law and that their cases wouldn't redress any of their alleged injuries. The problem was that these plaintiffs conceded the legality of the NOTC option on the ballot--"the voter option that would have a siphoning effect," op. at 16--and therefore failed to connect their injuries to their claim and requested relief.