State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Campaign Finance and Court Cases and Killed Bills, Oh My!: Is Oregon on the Way to Contribution Limits?

By: Laura Misch

Currently, Oregon is one of five states—along with Alabama, Nebraska, Utah, and Virginia—that allows for unlimited campaign contributions. As a result, the money has been pouring into state elections. Just last year, the gubernatorial race between Democratic incumbent Kate Brown and Republican Knute Buehler became the most expensive one in the state’s history, as contributions amounted to over $37 million. Phil Knight, a co-founder of Nike, alone donated $2.5 million to the Buehler campaign. The Oregonian also published a series called “Polluted by Money,” which found that over the last ten years corporate interests gave more money to Oregon lawmakers than any other state in the United States.

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It’s Crunch Time for 2020 Election Security: Is Arizona Equipped to Face New Threats?

By: Kristin Palmason

The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) enacted by Congress in 2012 with overwhelming bipartisan support, provides federal funds to states for the purpose of reforming the administration of elections, including upgrading voting equipment and eliminating punch-card and lever voting machines. As HAVA was enacted in response to the 2000 contested election of Bush v. Gore, which hinged on outdated voting equipment and “hanging chads,”  HAVA funds were intended to streamline internal election processes and updating archaic voting systems. Arizona committed to using the funds to replace punch card voting systems, add touch screen equipment and update voter registration, provisional balloting, and grievance processes. By 2015, approximately $3.3 billion in HAVA funds for election assistance was awarded to states nationwide, with approximately $52.5 million awarded to Arizona.

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THE COMMISSION; THE DEFEAT OF “CONCON” IN HAWAII; MISSED OPPORTUNITIES ALL AROUND

By: Jack Notar

In 1931, the American Mafia reorganized leadership. Rather than have one boss at the head of the table, each of the major crime families would have a seat, sharing power and making decisions as a cohesive unit. “The Commission,” comprising of the seven premier mafia families in the country, was formed. The Commission would go on to meet up every few years or so to settle disputes, set boundaries, and discuss innovations in crime. Occasionally, the bosses would vote on whether or not to whack someone. To anyone’s knowledge, the last time The Commission met as a whole was in 1985. By then, there had simply become too much to lose by gathering all family heads in one place. Any major decisions of importance could always be made in a safer, less vulnerable manner. This strategy has paid off, with no major mafia busts in recent years. A boss or underboss might get arrested or clipped, but never more than one at a time, and business is still flowing. “Per noi e solo noi, ora e per sempre.”

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Decades Long Tradition on the Chopping Block?

By: David Maley

For several decades, the first ballot in the presidential primaries has been cast in a small, quiet town in New Hampshire. Dixville Notch, not likely famous for anything other than being the site of the first ballot cast, has gained significant media attention due to its long-standing tradition of opening their polls at midnight. While this tradition may seem more like ceremony rather than anything that might have significant implications for the November presidential election, the most recent election cast a revealing light on a certain issue that has caused a great amount of concern in the small New Hampshire town. That issue? A significant number of people lining up to vote at midnight don’t actually live in Dixville Notch. The exact reason for each individual voting in the wrong location is unknown, but it isn’t a stretch of the imagination to assert it is likely due to the considerable amount of media attention the town has gotten because of the tradition.

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Can Consolidating Elections Help Increase Voter Turnout?

By: Joshua Wagner

Almost everyone agrees that low voter turnout is a serious problem throughout the country. The trouble is that liberals and conservatives often disagree about the best way for the states to address this issue. However, there is at least one proposed solution which has garnered bipartisan support (and bipartisan opposition) from state lawmakers: election day consolidation.

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Virginia Votes for Rights: A Legislative Roundup of New Election Laws

By: Kira Simon

This weekend was the deadline for Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to act on the bills that Virginia’s general assembly passed in the 2020 session. Virginia residents can now expect a slew of laws expanding voting rights to go into effect in the Commonwealth.The governor announced his signature on a variety of bills, that will: Continue reading

Who’s Afraid of Virginia’s Split Precincts? The Resulting Anomalies From Split Precincts in Virginia’s 2017 and 2019 Elections

By: James Lomonosoff

No election is perfect. Indeed, one reason the Virginia Department of Elections regularly releases a report summing up the year’s election day complaints is likely to demonstrate the fallibility inherent in any human-run electoral system. Another reason, naturally enough, is so that the number of complaints and what matter they relate to can be tracked over time. In November 2018, as that year’s after-action report indicates, there were around 25 complaints related to “ballot” incidents. What might prompt a ballot-related complaint?

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Nebraska Makes a Second Try at Post-Sentence Felony Re-enfranchisement

By: George Townsend

When the Nebraska legislature meets in January 2020 one of the bills up for consideration will be LB 83, which would restore the right to vote to citizens convicted of felonies once they have completed their sentence and parole.

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How New York is Pioneering Campaign Finance Reform

By: David Lim

Last year, Democrats took the New York legislature for the first time in a decade. This is important given the state’s notorious reputation of having highly restrictive voting laws and corruption in public office. By flipping the state Senate, New York has a unique opportunity to implement meaningful election and campaign finance reform. Indeed, state Democrats have been taking advantage of the opportunity. In the past year, Albany has enacted several reforms, including, but not limited to, early voting, more paid time off to vote, and holding both state and federal primary elections on the same day. Most notably, these reforms did not touch on campaign finance reform. However, this is not to say that New York is not doing anything about it.

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Opinion: The Problem with Voter ID in North Dakota

At a basic level, voter ID laws seem perfectly rational. Election security is important and requiring voters to present identification looks like a good way to prevent fraud. Yet in the United States, voter ID laws have been sharply criticized because in practice, they tend to disenfranchise voters and have the potential to reduce participation by discouraging voters from heading to the polls. Many Americans may lack the required ID and face barriers to obtaining one.

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