About 1,650 Ballots Handled Improperly in Baltimore Election        

By: Mengxin Cui

Baltimore has a long history of election administration problems. According to media reports, election workers often lack knowledge of procedure, polling places sometimes fail to open on time, equipment shuts down, election judges fail to show up, and so on. Commenting on these problems, Roger E. Hartley, dean of the College of Public Affairs at the University of Baltimore observed that, “[i]f we’re experiencing problems over and over again, not anticipating them in advance, that has a major impact on the credibility of the system.” Baltimore’s history shows us that even when problems occur, courts rarely order new elections. Some legal and political experts explain that an election “do-over” is an extremely expensive decision, and may bring about a host of new problems. For this reason, courts and election administrators almost never order election do-overs.

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Flip and Flop: Federal judge lifts Michigan state law banning “Ballot Selfies,” but Sixth Circuit reverses four days later

 

By: Angela M. Evanowski

On October 24, 2016, famous singer and actor Justin Timberlake found himself in trouble after posting a “ballot selfie” on his two social media accounts, Twitter and Instagram. Timberlake, who is registered to vote in Tennessee, flew from California to his home voting county and posted the selfies in order to encourage millennials and fans to vote. However, to the surprise of Timberlake, the state of Tennessee earlier this year passed a law banning voters from taking photographs or videos during the voting process. Luckily, for this famous former boy-band member, he is not going to face any criminal charges or punishment for posting his ballot selfies.

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Examining the Issue of Felon Voting in Minnesota

By Kristi Breyfogle

Minnesota Voter Alliance (MVA) filed suit in court alleging that the Minnesota Secretary of State was illegally allowing convicted felons and other ineligible voters to vote in the 2016 election.  According to MVA, the Secretary of State wrongly ordered election officials to give ballots to those marked as ineligible on the voter rolls provided that they swear an oath that they are actually eligible to vote. Under Minnesota law, the secretary of state has discretion to adopt and implement rules that are consistent with state and federal laws in regards to election procedures. In Minnesota, a person convicted of a felony is ineligible to vote until their civil rights have been restored.  This means convicted felons cannot vote until they have been released from prison and have completely finished their sentences, including any parole or probation.  When a registered voter commits a felony or is otherwise ineligible to vote, the voting roster marks that person’s right to vote as “challenged.”

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Nine Districts: How Richmond came to possess one of America’s strangest rules for electing a Mayor

 

By: Venugopal Katta

On November 8th, 2016, voters in Richmond, Virginia – like hundreds of millions of Americans – headed to the polls. In addition to deciding between Presidential and Congressional candidates, Richmond voters elected former Secretary of the Commonwealth Levar Stoney to replace term-limited incumbent Dwight Jones. The process by which they did so, however, was a unique reflection of rules set up in the shadow of the city’s troubled history of racism, corruption, and legal jeopardy.

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Breaking Down the Barriers to Automatic Voter Registration in Washington D.C.

 

By: Mary Boothe

In May 2015, The Automatic Voter Registration Amendment Act was introduced to the D.C. Council by council members Charles Allen, Brianne Nadeau, Jack Evans, Mary Cheh, Elissa Silverman, and Anita Bonds, and former at-large council member Vincent Orange, and co-sponsored by at-large council member David Grosso.  The bill has since unanimously passed the D.C. Council. However, to become a law it still needs to be signed by the mayor, Muriel Bowser, and sent for a 30-day review on Capitol Hill. Allowing automatic voter registration will still be a landmark move that will ease the burden of registration for the thousands of eligible D.C. voters.

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North Carolina’s Battle for Voter Identification

By: Collin Crookenden

With the recent invalidation of the coverage formula set forth in Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, several previously covered districts implemented stricter voting requirements. In 2013, immediately following the invalidation, North Carolina enacted Session Law 2013-381 which contained multiple provisions that were contested as soon as Governor McCrory (R) signed it into effect: photo identification requirements, shortened early voting periods, and elimination of pre-registration for individuals under the age of 18. The new requirements were set to go into effect January 2016 and were in fact utilized in the primaries earlier this year, after the legislature altered the law in 2015. Of primary concern to the litigants and to the legislation’s opposition was the requirement of all voters to show photo identification. Most states have some form of identification requirements, but North Carolina’s 2013 version maintained some of the most stringent provisions. Governor McCrory argued that these, specifically the photo identification statute, were “common sense” pieces of legislation. However, while the district court agreed with his assessment, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the legislation was in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination of voting requirements based upon race.

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About 1,650 Ballots Handled Improperly in Baltimore Election

 

By: Mengxin Cui

Baltimore has a long history of election administration problems. According to media reports, election workers often lack knowledge of procedure, polling places sometimes fail to open on time, equipment shuts down, election judges fail to show up, and so on. Commenting on these problems, Roger E. Hartley, Dean of the College of Public Affairs at the University of Baltimore observed that, “[i]f we’re experiencing problems over and over again, not anticipating them in advance, that has a major impact on the credibility of the system.” Baltimore’s history shows us that even when problems occur, courts rarely order new elections. Some legal and political experts explain that an election “do-over” is an extremely expensive decision, and may bring about a host of new problems. For this reason, courts and election administrators almost never order election do-overs.

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Virginia’s “Right-to-Work” Amendment: Nothing Has Changed

By: Kelsey Dolin

On November 8th, 2016, Virginians not only cast their ballots for the next president and other elected officials, but also lent their voices to two proposed amendments to the Virginia Constitution. Voters decided against a right-to-work amendment and approved an amendment exempting the spouses of first responders killed in the line of duty from property taxes.

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Why Michigan should remove restrictions on who may cast an absentee ballot

By: Sara Krauss

Michigan Absentee Voting On the Rise

Michigan voters are voting via absentee ballot in increasingly high numbers. In the November 2016 election, approximately one-fourth of Michigan voters used an absentee ballot to case their votes. In the August 2016 primary election, that number was even higher in many counties. In Kent County, 43 percent of votes were cast via absentee ballots; in Grand Rapids, 40 percent of votes were absentee; in Ottawa County, roughly one-third of voters voted via an absentee ballot.

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Pennsylvania is leading the charge to reenact Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act

By: Ebony Thomas

From slavery to Jim Crow, America has a long, dark history in the treatment of its African American citizenry.  Although Congress ratified changes to the United States Constitution three times to benefit African Americans (i.e., the 13th Amendment abolished slavery, the 14th Amendment provided African Americans equal protection, and the 15th Amendment gave African American men a right to vote), the franchise did not come easily for former slaves. Many states imposed barriers, such as poll taxes, literacy tests, intimidation, and other methods, to keep African Americans from accessing the ballot. It was not until 1965, under the leadership of President Lyndon B. Johnson, that the nation affirmed the promise of the Constitution to all Americans and effectively decimated States’ self-imposed barriers that kept African Americans from exercising their right to vote.  This legislation is known as the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

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