State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Sheridan, Wyoming’s Special Election Saga

By: Camden Kelliher

On November 5th, residents of Sheridan, Wyoming took to the polls to participate in a special election and on November 7th the Sheridan City Council certified the results. The election was over Charter Ordinance 2202, which was passed to clarify the roles of the City Administrator and Mayor. The City Administrator position was only created in 2015 by Charter Ordinance 2158, and since then critics have claimed that it takes too much authority away from the Mayor. The current Mayor of Sheridan, Roger Miller, ran his campaign around the idea of strengthening the “mayor form of government.” However, Sheridan residents must not have felt as strongly as their elected Mayor, because they voted to keep Charter Ordinance 2202.

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Meeting California’s Language Access Needs: Decision in Appeals Case Against California Secretary of State

By: Elizabeth Harte

A California appeals court ruled on November 5, 2019, that California Secretary of State, Alex Padilla, improperly used the federal Voting Rights Act population requirement, instead of state law, to determine which language minorities required language services. His 2017 directive had restricted language assistance for “tens of thousands of California voters.” This ruling will bring language service access to those who speak languages like “Japanese, Hindi, Thai, Burmese, Urdu, Hmong and Punjabi” and will result in the recognition of eleven languages that California has not previously acknowledged. The ruling affects approximately 1,300 California precincts and grants “56,000 limited-English speaking California residents” assistance, like translated voting materials, that helps them participate in the democratic process.

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Voter Fraud Allegations Do Not Deter Supporters from Re-electing Bridgeport Mayor

By: Kaila DeSaix

On November 5, 2019, Incumbent Mayor of Bridgeport, CT, Joe Ganim, officially won four more years, marking his seventh term in office. Ganim’s re-election campaign has been a controversial one. His rival in the Democratic primary election, Marilyn Moore, accused Ganim of winning the Democratic primary through absentee voter fraud. Ganim is not unfamiliar with accusations of political fraud and corruption. Ganim has been a controversial political figure since his seven-year stint in federal prison following his fifth term as Bridgeport mayor. Following his release from prison, his message of redemption and second chances won him an unlikely sixth term as mayor in 2015. Despite his successful comeback, some Democrats remain suspicious of his political dealings, as evidenced by his highly contested primary election win in September. This year’s election continued to be controversial up through the day before the general election when a decision was made by the Connecticut Supreme Court to proceed with the general election despite a voter fraud lawsuit still being on appeal against Ganim.

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California Expands Same Day Voting Access

By: Maria Callahan

On October 8, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill No. 72, an act to amend Section 2170 of the Elections Code. This bill requires that county elections officials offer conditional voter registration and provisional voting at all satellite offices and all polling places in California. Under the prior existing law, an otherwise qualified elector was authorized to register to vote, complete a conditional voter registration, or cast a provisional ballot during either the 14 days preceding an election or on election day, as prescribed by each jurisdiction.

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Counties in North Carolina Gamble on New Voting Machines

By: Margaret Lowry

Super Tuesday is tomorrow and voters in North Carolina might use new voting machines. Since the 2018 election, several counties in North Carolina have had to make a critical decision for their voters–what voting machines should they purchase? A shortened timetable and heightened concern about election security have made for a contentious process.

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It’s the Machines: Fundamental Problems with Voting Technology in South Carolina

By: Matthew Woodward

While the 2016 presidential election may have cast light on foreign interference in US elections, the general election of 2018 highlighted an additional, albeit more homegrown, threat: broken and outdated voting machines.

In 2018, as reported by the AP, 41 states used voting machines that were more than a decade old and, perhaps even more alarming, 43 states used voting machines that are no longer in production. One state, South Carolina, offers an unfortunate example of this trend. The bulk of the state’s current voting machines were purchased in 2004, making them nearly 15 years old at the time of the 2018 election.  Some context—2004 was also the year of  such technological feats as the birth of Facebook, the arrival of Skype, and the earliest introduction of cell-phone cameras.

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Can the South Carolina Republican Party Really Cancel its Presidential Primary?

By: Trevor Bernardo

GOP state committees in South Carolina, Kansas, Alaska, Arizona, and Nevada have all cancelled their primary or caucus elections for the 2020 presidential election.  The Minnesota GOP also recently announced that Trump would be the only Republican candidate on its primary ballot.  How can state parties avoid holding a primary election, even if only to confirm or re-nominate an incumbent, that will ultimately determine who will be on the general election ballot, and pledge electors to vote in the Electoral College?

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Kansas Democrats Shift from Caucus to Primary

By: Alexander Reinert

 

As the nation prepares to vote in the upcoming 2020 presidential primaries, Kansas Democrats made news this past summer as they joined a growing list of states shifting away from caucuses to determine the allocation of their state delegates to the national convention. Citing efficiency purposes, state Democratic Party Chairwoman Vicki Hiatt said that she believes a primary will attract more participants than a caucus. Indeed, about 39,000 people participated in Kansas Democrats’ presidential caucuses in 2016—an unusually high turnout largely due to the enthusiasm of Bernie Sanders’ supporters. Democrats stuck to a traditional caucus format in 2016, whereby participants gathered in groups by the candidates they preferred after listening to speeches by candidate representatives. As a result, some meetings took several hours, which discouraged participation, especially in rural areas of the state where participants faced long drives to get to caucus sites. “People did not want to do that again,” Hiatt said. “It just ended up being a little chaotic.”

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Early Voting in New York State

By: Christoper Hennessy

This most recent election cycle saw voters in New York State trying out early voting for the first time. The legislation passed in January, among other bills designed to expand and modernize New York’s election laws. This brings the state in line with the other thirty-eight states to already have early voting as part of their election laws. Governor Andrew Cuomo praised the effort to pass the legislation. As he signed the bill into law, he noted that “At a time when the federal government is doing everything it can to disenfranchise voters, we are taking action to make it easier for New Yorkers to participate in the democratic process . . . .”

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No More Excuses: Virginia Rolls Back Outdated Absentee Ballot Laws

By: Kira Simon

Elections have consequences. After flipping both chambers of the state legislature, Democrats in Virginia got to work updating the state’s election laws. By the end of January, the state legislature passed laws that will make significant changes to how Virginians vote – especially how they vote absentee.

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