Jones v. Secretary of State, 100120 MESC, Cum-20-227

Docket Nº:Cum-20-227
Opinion Judge:PER CURIAM
Party Name:DAVID A. JONES v. SECRETARY OF STATE et al.
Attorney:Patrick N. Strawbridge, Esq. (orally), Consovoy McCarthy PLLC, Boston, Massachusetts, for movant-appellees David A. Jones et al. Aaron M. Frey, Attorney General, and Phyllis Gardiner, Asst. Atty. Gen. (orally), Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for respondent-appellant Secretary of State J...
Judge Panel:Panel: MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HUMPHREY, and HORTON, JJ.
Case Date:October 01, 2020
Court:Supreme Judicial Court of Maine
 
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2020 ME 117

DAVID A. JONES

v.

SECRETARY OF STATE et al.

No. Cum-20-227

Supreme Court of Maine

October 1, 2020

Argued: October 1, 2020

Patrick N. Strawbridge, Esq. (orally), Consovoy McCarthy PLLC, Boston, Massachusetts, for movant-appellees David A. Jones et al.

Aaron M. Frey, Attorney General, and Phyllis Gardiner, Asst. Atty. Gen. (orally), Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for respondent-appellant Secretary of State

James G. Monteleone, Esq. (orally), and Matthew J. Saldana, Esq., Bernstein Shur, Portland, for respondent-appellants The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting et al.

Panel: MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HUMPHREY, and HORTON, JJ.

PER CURIAM

[¶1] David A. Jones, Jonathan Kinney, and Joshua Morris (collectively, "Jones") have filed a motion to stay the effect of the mandate in our decision issued in this matter on September 22, 2020, Jones v. Sec'y of State, 2020 ME 113, ___ A.3d ___, pending their petition for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States. See M.R. App. P. 14(a)(3).[1] The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting and three individuals (collectively, "Committee") and the Secretary of State oppose the motion. Because we conclude that Jones has not satisfied the test for us to stay the effect of the mandate, we deny the motion.

[¶2] A request for a stay in the Law Court is "subject to the same standards for obtaining injunctive relief that are applied in the trial courts." Me. Equal Justice Partners v. Commissioner, 2018 ME 127, ¶ 31, 193 A.3d 796. "To obtain a stay, the moving party must demonstrate that (1) it will suffer irreparable injury if the injunction is not granted; (2) such injury outweighs any harm which granting the injunctive relief would inflict on the other party; (3) it has a likelihood of success on the merits (at most, a probability; at least, a substantial possibility); and (4) the public interest will not be adversely affected by granting the injunction." Id. (quotation marks omitted).

A. Irreparable Injury, Harm to Other Parties, and the Public Interest

[¶3] Jones argues that he will suffer irreparable harm if a stay is not granted because the ranked-choice-voting law will be in effect for the November election despite what he contends are an adequate number of signatures in support of the people's veto petition. The Secretary of State indicates, with support from the affidavit of the Deputy Secretary of State in charge of the Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions, that he has already finalized templates and printed more than a million ballots. The Secretary of State further represents, also with support from the affidavit, that ranked-choice ballots have already been delivered to voters serving in the military and to civilian voters living outside the United States, and that more than 1, 800 ballots have already been returned by voters. Cf Knutson v. Dep't of Sec'y of State, 2008 ME 129, ¶ 14, 954 A.2d 1054 (authorizing a stay when ballot templates had not been finalized). Jones does not dispute these facts.

[¶4] The public has a strong interest in using ranked-choice voting if- as the Secretary of State determined and we affirmed-the proponents of the people's veto did not obtain enough valid signatures and the Act to Implement Ranked-choice Voting for Presidential Primary and General Elections in Maine, P.L. 2019, ch. 539, is legally in effect.2 See Jones, 2020 ME 113, ¶ 35, ___ A.3d ___. Voting has begun with voters using this method, and there is a strong public interest in not changing the rules for voting at this late time.[3] See Purcell v. Gonzalez, 549 U.S. 1, 4-6 (2006).

[¶5] Admittedly, if the ranked-choice law were not properly in effect because of a valid people's veto petition, 4 the public would have an interest in using non-ranked-choice voting and having the opportunity to vote on the people's veto question. The balance of harms and the public interest, however, weigh against our grant of Jones's requested stay. B. Likelihood of Success on the Merits

[¶6] We next consider Jones's likelihood of success on the merits. Jones argues that our decision, which applies a standard less stringent than strict scrutiny, stands in contrast to federal courts' holdings that strict scrutiny applies to circulator requirements. Jones also contends that, even applying the standard that we used, the requirement in Maine law that petition circulators be registered to vote in the municipalities where they reside, see Me. Const, art. IV, pt. 3, § 20; 21-A M.R.S. § 903-A (2020), is overly restrictive of First Amendment rights because an affidavit would adequately ensure that a person was a resident in Maine at the time of petition circulation.

[¶7] In support of his position that our legal reasoning conflicts with federal case law, Jones...

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