Equal Protection Challenge to Virginia’s Felony Disenfranchisement Provision Survives Summary Judgment
March 25, 2013 | | Leave a Comment
The US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on Friday granted the State’s summary judgment motion on substantive and procedural due process challenges to Virginia’s voter reinstatement process for convicted felons, as well as an Eight Amendment challenge to the disenfranchisement of felons as cruel and unusual punishment. The court did, however, deny summary judgment on El-Amin’s Equal Protection challenge of lifetime felon disenfranchisement in Virginia.
by Emily Lippolis, Special Contributor
The biggest problem facing Virginia registrars is a lack of resources. They are understaffed, overworked, and last-minute legislative acts (like mandating ballots in Spanish) mean that they are often burdened with unforeseen changes right before Election Day. Poll workers are well-trained but most experience their first real day of work on Election Day. There is usually not enough money to create data for election statistics at individual precincts. Furthermore, each precinct is different and has their own set of needs.
All of this led our working group on Election Day “party planning” to conclude that what registrars need most are business management-like resources, and not broad solutions to haphazardly apply to every precinct. Most large businesses track their resources so that they can determine how different processes and investments lead to different outcomes. Many large companies, like Walt Disney World and UPS, have already done the research necessary to mitigate many of the issues that create delays at the polls. Some states have already solved the problems facing other states, and just need a medium to communicate their solutions with the rest of the country. If election officials had the same resources used by big businesses to create maximum efficiency and customer satisfaction, then elections would run a lot more smoothly in Virginia. Read more
by Shanna Reulbach, Special Contributor
The William & Mary Election Law Society hosted a symposium searching for solutions to the delays that occurred on Election Day 2012—those that President Obama directed national attention to during his acceptance speech that night. The symposium began with small-group sessions that brought scholars, elections officials, and students together to discuss the issues. I was part of the group focusing on election flexibility options, and had the honor of talking with Dr. John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center and two outstanding Virginia general registrars, Barbra Gunter and Donna Patterson.
The group focused first on two of the “hottest” ideas for voter flexibility: early voting and absentee voting. Currently, Virginia offers mail-in absentee ballots to voters who are able to select one of a number of excuses for not being present in their precinct on Election Day. Virginia’s system of in-person absentee voting, which other states may call early voting, also requires an excuse. Ms. Gunter and Ms. Patterson related that Virginia voters passing through their offices express support of having more options for early voting through either method. The registrars agreed that more options for early voting would reduce delays on Election Day because people would likely take advantage of those options, meaning less people coming to the polls on that Tuesday in November. Read more
by Andrew McCoy, Special Contributor
On February 21 the William and Mary Election Law Society held its annual Symposium with a focus on election day delays. During the symposium three panel discussions were held, and I had the pleasure of being present in the Voting Technology panel. This discussion was facilitated by Paul Herrnson and included three William and Mary Law students, two Virginia Registrars: Kirk Showalter and Greg R, and a Member of an Electoral Board: Al Ablowich. We were meant to look at voting technology problems, their impact on voting day delays, and potential solutions.
We were unable to note any specific solutions, partially because we could not pinpoint the impact of technological problems. Mr. Riddlemoser stated that there were no technology related delays in his county, and Ms. Showalter noted that, absent voter or poll worker errors, there was only one technology problem in her county and the resulting delay cleared by mid-morning. Mr. Ablowich did note some technology problems on election day, but these were related to the age of the machines and human error. Based on this panel discussion it appears that reports of delays caused by voting machine failures may have mis-identified other issues with technology failures. Read more
February 26, 2013 | | Leave a Comment
I was honored to be a participant in a a symposium yesterday in Williamsburg at William and Mary’s Marshall-Wythe School of Law. The event was the annual symposium of the school’s Election Law Society, which is led by Professor Rebecca Green and filled with a seemingly endless supply of enthusiastic and capable students.
The topic for yesterday’s symposium was election delays – including but not limited to long lines. In the morning, students and a handful of Virginia election officials met in small discussions with three visiting experts:
- + Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who discussed event management for elections (or “party planning”, as it was called throughout the day);
- + University of Maryland professor Paul Herrnson, who shared his knowledge and expertise on voting technology; and
- + John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Coalition, who delved into his considerable academic and professional experience to lead a discussion on voting flexibility.
William & Mary’s recent Election Law Symposium played host to several of the leading luminaries in election administration, focusing upon issues of election delays, including but not limited to long lines. On more than one occasion, participants discussed Election Day vote centers—large voting “big boxes” of sorts at which voters from multiple different precincts may vote—as a potential instrument to combat Election Day delays (see here for a brief discussion of voting at non-precinct polling places). The subject was particularly appropriate for the panel assembled at W&M, as it included Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, a lightning rod for controversy in election administration, whose state has had valuable experience with Election Day vote centers.
February 21, 2013 | | Leave a Comment
by Jacob Derr, Editor
One of the biggest stories talked about in the wake of Election Day 2012 were the long lines at the polls. As Election Night played out in real time on television, people were able to see firsthand–or not see, as the case was–the votes come in from districts in states that had closed their polls hours ago. Jump over to any local station in these areas, and you could probably find a local reporter talking to prospective voters, many of whom said they had been waiting in line for hours. President Obama, speaking the day after, declared: “we have to fix that.”
Some states have already started to address these problems. Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner filed a report earlier this month with his findings as to the best ways to reduce long lines and streamline elections. Florida saw some of the worst lines last year. Chief among Detzner’s proposed solutions include requiring county commissioners to pay for technological upgrades, giving election administrators greater leeway to make decisions that will shorten lines, and requiring that legislators have a word limit for the constitutional amendments they place on the ballot. He also suggested that, besides unpreparedness among election officials, one of the greatest problems leading to Election Day lines was the cutback passed by the state legislature on the number of early voting days and locations. He says that, despite the budget concerns that led to these being cut back after the 2010 election, they remain a pivotal reason why lines were so long. Read more
February 20, 2013 | | Leave a Comment
by Jacob Derr, Editor
On December 7, 2012, the Election Law Program held its third war game scenario in Neenah, Wisconsin. The war game focused on potential overvoting and the rights of Wisconsin voters to override their spoiled votes in a hypothetical governor’s race.
Carey Kleinman voted absentee several weeks before the election for governor of the state of Wisconsin, but due to a confusing error in ballot design, she accidentally voted for two gubernatorial candidates. The Republican, Democrat, and Green Party candidates were each listed on their own line, and then three other third party candidates were listed in a box next to the lines. Many voters, like Ms. Kleinman, mistakenly voted for two of these candidates–one from the box, and one from the lines. Ms. Kleinman is joined by 247 other absentee voters who believe their ballot may be spoiled.
There are two statutes in the state which pertain to accidental overvoting. The first allows a voter on Election Day “who, by accident or mistake, spoils or erroneously prepares a ballot” to “receive another, by returning the defective ballot.” Wis. Stat. §6.80(2)(c). Their initial vote is destroyed, and the re-vote is counted. On the other hand, another statute disallows absentee voters who mail or deliver a ballot to the clerk from getting another ballot from the county clerk, and they may not vote a second on Election Day. Wis. Stat. §6.86(6). All of the counties except for Stone County, where the plaintiffs reside, chose to allow absentee voters to re-cast their vote under a reading of the first statute. Read more
by Jacob Derr & Tony Glosson, Editors
Doug Chapin is the Director of the Program for Excellence in Election Administration at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. His Election Academy seeks to provide education and research to help election administrators improve and adapt their performance in the future. He spent ten years at the Pew Charitable Trusts working for voting reform at the national and state level, and to improve voting technology, including internet and mobile applications. He will be moderating panelists at the Seventh Annual Election Law Symposium at William & Mary Law School this Thursday, February 21, 2013. We asked him a few questions in advance of his appearance….
by Jacob Derr & Tony Glosson, Editors
Dr. Paul Herrnson is the director of the Center for American Politics and Citizenship and a Professor of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland. He is also the principal investigator of a project funded by the Maryland State Board of Elections which is designed to research campaign financce and voting in the state and also to design a method to deliver absentee ballots over the internet. Dr. Herrnson’s scholarship focuses on voting technology and ballot design. He was recently quoted by the New York Times explaining the causes of longer ballots in some states than in others. Dr. Herrnson will be a panelist at Thursday’s Seventh Annual William & Mary Election Law Symposium. In advance of the event, we asked him a few questions about voting technology, now and into the future.