Legal Memorandum: De Novo Review of Election Board's Actions

Issue: Whether a de novo review is appropriate when a trial court reviews the actions of an election official or board.

Area of Law: Election, Campaign & Political Law, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: De novo review; Actions of an election official or board; Standard of discretion
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 531 U.S. 98; 653 A.2d 79; 870 So.2d 958; 326 Mont. 256; 231 Conn. 602; 772 So. 2d 1243; 663 A.2d 489; 109 P.3d 9
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 05/01/2005

The following cases are relevant to this issue:

Big Spring v. Jore, 326 Mont. 256, 109 P.3d 9 (2005) (A[O]ur standard of review in questions of this nature will continue to be de novo.  In other words, we apply the same standard that should have been applied by the District CourtBplenary review of the validity of the challenged ballots.@).

In re Election for Second Congressional Dist., 231 Conn. 602, 653 A.2d 79 (1994) (direct appeal by election contestants to state supreme court, no lower court action involved; A[W]e are not persuaded by [the] argument that, in our review of absentee ballots . . . we must give deference to the validity of the moderator=s ruling.  We agree . . . that we must determine de novo the voter=s intent in casting or marking an absentee ballot.@).

Gore v. Harris, 772 So. 2d 1243 (Fla.), rev=d on other grounds, Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98 (2000) (trial court in election contest proceeding committed error in applying abuse of discretion standard to canvassing board=s decisionBreview is de novo).  See also Braxton v. Holmes County Election Canvassing Bd., 870 So.2d 958 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2004) (holding that same standard applied in judicial review of counting of rejected absentee ballots by the canvassing board).

For a decision holding that abuse of discretion standard applies, see Allen v. Dist. of Columba Bd. of Elections & Ethics,