State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

The Night the Votes Went Out in Georgia

By: Fiona Carroll

Legal action is pending following Georgia’s problematic June 9 primary that was characterized by long lines at polls, broken voting machines, failure to process mail-in ballots, and fears over possible voter suppression. With November’s general election rapidly approaching, several state entities and voters’ rights groups are scrambling to ensure a fairer process this time around.

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Indiana’s Voter ID Law in 2020: College Students Might be the Disenfranchised Voting Population Nobody Expected

By: Emma Merrill

Last year, a group of students at Purdue University in Indiana faced uncertainty about whether they could exercise their franchise rights in local elections. The controversy revolved around Indiana’s strict voter identification law. Julie Roush, a Republican elected as Tippecanoe County clerk in 2018, publicly questioned whether Purdue University’s school ID complied with Indiana’s infamous voter identification law. Roush faced swift public backlash on social media, and Purdue placated Roush’s concerns by adding expiration dates to its student IDs to comply with Indiana state law. Still, incoming Purdue sophomores (who were not issued new IDs last year) may be prevented from using their freshman IDs to vote in fall 2020 elections.

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HB 1169, North Carolina’s COVID-19 Election Remedy: A Sufficient Comprise or Too Far and Not Enough?

By: Forrest Via

It’s no news to anyone that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed how Americans go about their daily lives, affecting many activities that we once took for granted as safe. Voting has not been spared from this list. With the November 2020 election quickly approaching, states across the country have adopted measures aimed at ensuring the safety of those casting ballots and supervising the polls on November 3.

North Carolina is one such state. This summer, the North Carolina General Assembly passed HB 1169 (now Session Law (NCSL) 2020-17 after Governor Roy Cooper’s signature in June), a bipartisan piece of legislation that, among its many provisions, lowers the state’s absentee ballot witness requirement to one person; allows individuals to request absentee ballots via email or fax; and provides funding for election officials to carry out their duties in the face of challenges presented by the pandemic.

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All Eyes on Absentee Voting: Wisconsin Races to Distribute Ballots After Green Light from Supreme Court

By: Mikaela Phillips  

The April 2020 presidential primary in Wisconsin drew national attention during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Even the United States Supreme Court weighed in, blocking the extension of absentee voting beyond the statutory deadline that requires ballots to be received by 8 p.m. on election day.

In April 2020, the state saw a surge in voting by mail. Absentee ballots accounted for roughly 6% of the votes tallied in the 2016 and 2018 general elections in Wisconsin. In stark contrast, over 60% of the total votes counted in the April primary were cast via absentee ballots. However, that figure does not paint the whole picture of rise in vote by-mail efforts. The state rejected over 23,000 mail-in ballots during the primary, most often due to witnesses’ failure to complete one line of the certification form.  Continue reading

Kanye West Won’t Be on the VA Ballot (For Now, At Least)

By: Canaan Suitt

On July 4, 2020, Kanye West tweeted that he was running for President of the United States. However, the following day CNN reported that Kanye had not taken any of the necessary steps to effectuate this plan – including filing paperwork with the FEC and getting on state ballots. In fact, by mid July West had already missed several states’ deadlines to get on the November ballot.

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Money Talks, but Donors’ Voices Don’t Matter

By: Helen L. Brewer

The U.S. Supreme Court has long held that spending money on political campaigns is a First Amendment right. Donations to, and expenditures by, campaigns—according to the Court—are political speech. As such, the First Amendment protects this money from government regulation. Laws can only place limits on campaign money if there is a risk the money will cause quid pro quo corruption or the appearance of such corruption. Therefore, despite the First Amendment’s protection of campaign funds, individual donations to candidate campaigns can be limited by the government. This prevents an individual from donating mass amounts of money to a campaign in exchange for special treatment when the candidate is elected to office.
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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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