State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Fourth Time’s the Charm? Albany County Addresses Redistricting Problems

By: Christopher Hennessy

Often, the conversation around redistricting focuses on the national or state levels; which party has control state legislatures around the census has an important effect on the next decade of political discourse and control in that state. However, what gets lost in that national focused conversation is what happens at a local level. Local redistricting can also have a large impact on politics. I interviewed William & Mary Law school alumni Caitlin Anderson to talk a little bit about her experience with redistricting in Albany County. Continue reading

A Likely Crowded GOP Primary in Wisconsin’s 5th Congressional District Would Benefit from Ranked Choice Voting

By: Austin Plier

Wisconsin Republican Jim Sensenbrenner announced in early September that he will not run for a 22nd term representing the state’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. After a more than 40 year run in Congress, Sensenbrenner’s impending departure will create a sizeable opportunity for ambitious Republicans in the solidly red district. As GOP strategist Brian Fraley put it, the opening is “a once-in-a-political-lifetime opportunity for a whole host of candidates,” as it is the “safest Republican seat in the state.”

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Voter’s Choice: The New Way to Vote

By : Elizabeth Harte

As the nation works to achieve a balance between election security and access to voting, California is rolling out a new system designed to “modernize elections.” Entitled “California’s Voter’s Choice Act,” the act was passed in 2016 and will become available for all counties to adopt in 2020. This extraordinary plan moves voting into the twenty-first century and does away with traditional, assigned voting places. In their stead, Californian counties that opt into the act will implement “vote centers.” These centers will serve as an all-purpose stop for Californians to ensure their voices are heard. For example, instead of the typical assignment to one polling place in their county, a Los Angeles County resident will be able to visit any center in their county most convenient to them and can do so up to ten days before the election. At a center, the said Angeleno can: “vote in person; drop off their ballot; get a replacement ballot; vote using an accessible voting machine; get help and voting material in multiple languages; [and] register to vote or update their voter registration.”

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Use-it-or-lose-it Voting Rights: A Closer Look at Oklahoma’s Voter List Maintenance

By: Sarah Marshment

In Oklahoma, April 15 doesn’t just mean that it’s time to turn your taxes in: at least, not on odd years like 2019. In the spring of every odd year, Oklahoma does voter list maintenance. This last April, state election officials in Oklahoma removed 88,276 registered voters from the voting rolls. Although this purging is required by law, state election officials offer up an additional justification – voter fraud.

State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax stated that “[m]aintaining clean and updated voter rolls . . . . protects our democracy by making it far more difficult for someone to use outdated voter lists to attempt to commit fraud or disrupt our elections.” Given the rising levels of concern about the security of our elections, this is a powerful rationale to invoke. However, Mr. Ziriax himself also states that “voter fraud is exceptionally rare in Oklahoma and is not a major issue here.” Mr. Ziriax explains that “this is not a new process, it is not partisan, and no Oklahoma voter is ever removed simply for failing to vote.”

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Something Rotten in the State of Connecticut?

By: Kalia Desaix

Incumbent Bridgeport mayor, Joe Ganim, recently won the Democratic mayoral primary over State Senator Marilyn Moore through his widespread success with absentee voters. While it is not unusual for an incumbent candidate to win the primary, it is unusual for a candidate to win based on absentee ballots. Although Ganim’s campaign’s focus on absentee ballot eligible voters has raised some eyebrows, he insists that this has simply been a noble effort to make absentee ballots more available to those eligible.

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The Tar Heel Test Case, Partisan Gerrymandering Cases in a Post-Rucho World

By: Gabby Vance

On Monday, October 28th, 2019, a three-judge panel of the Superior Court of Wake County ruled that the proposed North Carolina congressional district maps violated the North Carolina state constitution. Despite Democrats making up about half the state vote, the maps only consisted of three Democratic districts and ten Republican districts. The panel found that the maps clearly discriminated against Democratic voters. The mapmakers used tactics such as “packing” and “cracking” to skew the maps in favor of Republicans and manipulate the upcoming 2020 election in their favor. Packing concentrates supporters for a political party into one district to give their party a less number of wins. Whereas cracking, the opposite technique spreads large groups of voters with the same political ideology out to water down their votes. These methods created landslide victories in North Carolina in the three Democratic districts; the candidates consistently win by over 70% of the vote and then much smaller victories for the Republican seats, only around mid-to-high 50% victories.

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How A Partisan Power Struggle Rewrote North Carolina’s Election Code

By: Margaret Lowry

In North Carolina, a partisan struggle over control of the State Board of Elections has led to a complete reshuffling of the state’s election code – not once, but twice.

In 2010, Republicans won a legislative majority in North Carolina’s General Assembly for the first time since 1898, and gained control over the executive branch two years later – giving the party complete control over the state government. The complete victory was short-lived. In 2016, the Republican incumbent was defeated by Democrat Roy Cooper.

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Dakota Drama: Could Controversial North Dakota Voter ID Law Migrate South?

By: Daniel Long

This past summer, the Eighth Circuit held that a controversial North Dakota law requiring very specific forms of voter identification could go into effect, vacating a district court’s injunction. The law in question, N.D. Cent. Code § 16.1-01-04.1, requires prospective voters to present identification that includes a North Dakota residential street address. If the prospective voter’s identification does not have a current residential street address, the voter may present other supplemental forms as well, such as a utility bill, provided that these forms contain a current residential address. North Dakota’s voter ID law received fierce backlash from Native Americans, whose IDs typically contain P.O. boxes rather than residential street addresses. The Eighth Circuit’s ruling begs the question, could North Dakota’s voter ID law migrate south to South Dakota? Continue reading

Implementation of Nevada’s “Motor Voter” Initiative Races Toward the Finish Line

By: Laura Misch

During the November 2018 mid-term elections, Nevada voters had the opportunity to vote “yes” or “no” on Question 5—a ballot measure that would establish an automatic voter registration system in the state. The voters’ answer was a resounding yes, with approximately sixty percent voting in favor of the initiative. This enactment of an automatic voter registration system follows a larger trend that is quickly sweeping the nation. Prior to the 2018 elections, a total of eleven states, plus the District of Columbia, passed automatic voter registration. In 2018, Nevada became one of the six newest states to enact such a system. However, passing the ballot measure has proven to be only half the battle. Continue reading

Reconsidering the Recall in the Rockies

By: Helen L. Brewer

Colorado is one of 19 states in which voters can recall elected officials from office at any time. Generally, recall elections occur when a certain percentage of a state’s population (determined by state law) signs a petition demanding a recall election be held. In some states, two elections are held: one in which voters must vote “Yes” or “No” on whether to recall the official against whom the petitions were directed, and a second election (if a majority of voters votes “Yes” in the first election) in which the recalled official’s successor is elected. In other states, including Colorado, these questions are placed on the same ballot – the recall process culminates in a single election. Continue reading

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