Fusion Voting in Up Close: A Look at the Independence Party of New York

By: David Schlosser

Last year Brad Smith provided this blog with a post that gives an overview of fusion voting laws in New York State. In this post I would like to look into a case study that, for some, sheds some doubt on the desirability of fusion voting laws.

The Independence Party of the State of New York (IPNY) is a minor party that states on its website, “candidates and elected officials should be free to tell the voters what their views are, without dictates from political party bosses, special interest groups and restrictive party platforms.” With this in mind, in most elections the IPNY has preferred to endorse major party candidates under the fusion voting system, rather than nominate their own (they last endorsed Andrew Cuomo for governor, for instance). Because of fusion voting laws, the IPNY appears on the ballot year-in year-out, despite this general (though not absolute) refusal to nominate separate candidates. This is coupled with a lack of discernable political position, which sharply contrasts to many of New York’s other minor parties that owe their existence to the fusion system, such as the Conservative Party (on the right) and the Working Families Party (on the left). One New York Times columnist called the IPNY, “a bizarre amalgam of right-wing populists married to black leftists and once led by Fred Newman, a Marxist therapist…” In the party’s defense, its website does include a few statements on policy positions, such as an opposition to Common Core and a support for the Dream Act.

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District of Cannabis: Legislative Tampering in the Nation’s Capital

By: Randolph Critzer

The nation watched last November as the District of Columbia passed an ordinance legalizing marijuana for private use. The ordinance, passed by referendum, was voted into effect on November 4th, 2014, and went into effect this past February. This creates a bit of a confusing situation for D.C., which, unlike the other 4 jurisdictions that have legalized the drug, still sits at the end of Congress’s leash.

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Oregon’s New Hyper Motor Voter Law

By: Matthew Hubbard

Voter identification laws of various forms, which are currently enforced in 32 states, continue to garner significant national media attention and spark contentious debate. Proponents argue that the laws prevent voter fraud and preserve the legitimacy of the electoral process while opponents claim that in-person voter fraud is a phantom problem and that these claims are merely pretext for partisan vote suppression. As the public attention and debate surrounding these voting restrictions increases, however, one state has managed to quietly pass legislation that moves as far as possible in the opposite direction.

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Puerto Rico Might Expand the Franchise to Include Illegal Immigrants

By: Hannah Whiteker

In January of this year, Puerto Rico’s Governor, Alejandro Garcia Padilla, made an announcement that would be political suicide for any politician in the mainland United States. Garcia Padilla, standing beside President Danilo Medina of the Dominican Republic, announced a proposal to broaden the voting franchise to include every resident of Puerto Rico, regardless of legal status. It is an established fact that illegal immigrants cannot vote in U.S. elections. This is also the current law in Puerto Rico. However, Garcia Padilla expressed his opinion that since every person who chooses Puerto Rico as his or her home is affected by the decisions that the government makes,  all residents should have the right to participate in deciding who governs. So far, neither the Governor nor the members of his political party, the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), has drafted a bill on this issue. However, the Governor’s proposal sparked discussions about the constitutionality of giving illegal immigrants the right to vote, particularly given Puerto Rico’s relationship with U.S.

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Nebraska’s Death Penalty Saga: Referendum on the Plains

By: Eric Sutton

Background and the Referendum Process

            On Wednesday, May 27th, 2015, the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature eliminated capital punishment through LB 268. The bill was approved over a veto by Governor Pete Ricketts, by a no-votes-to-spare 30-19 margin, and marked the end of State Senator Ernie Chambers’ 39-year effort to end the death penalty in Nebraska. The repeal made Nebraska the first conservative state to eliminate capital punishment in more than 40 years. However, immediately after the repeal, State Senator Beau McCoy, a conservative, expressed his frustration over the vote and announced his intent to pursue a ballot initiative to reinstate the death penalty. Less than one week after the repeal and Sen. McCoy’s statements, a group named Nebraskan’s for the Death Penalty (“NFDP”) filed the appropriate paperwork with the Secretary of State to reinstate the death penalty by referendum.

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Wisconsin Senate Passes Campaign Finance, Election Board Overhauls

By Dan Sinclair

In a lengthy session stretching from last Friday night to the early hours of Saturday morning, the Wisconsin Senate voted to approve a pair of bills making significant changes to the state’s campaign finance laws and election oversight. The latter provision entailed an official plan to replace Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board (GAB), a nonpartisan elections and ethics board. Republican legislators had made both issues a priority in recent months, with last weekend’s vote coming less than a month after legislators held a hearing to propose sweeping changes.

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Compactness and Political Considerations in Virginia General Assembly Districts

By: Emily Wagman

On September 14th, fourteen plaintiffs represented by DurretteCrump PLC filed suit in the Circuit Court for the City of Richmond against the Virginia State Board of Elections, alleging that their respective House of Delegates and State Senate districts are not compact. Compactness is one of the Virginia Constitution’s three redistricting criteria. Along with compactness, the Voting Rights Act (VRA) requirements, and the “one person, one vote” requirement, districts must be contiguous and as close to equal in population as possible. Contiguity and equal population are relatively easy to determine, by looking at the proposed maps and the population data, respectively, compactness is more complicated.

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The Territorial American Exceptionalism to the Fundamental Right to Vote

By Ajinur Setiwaldi

Voting is one of the most fundamental rights of U.S. citizens. Congress explicitly states as much in the National Voter Registration Act. Chief Justice Warren invoked the principle when delivering the Reynolds v. Sims  opinion in 1964, stating, “undoubtedly, the right to suffrage is a fundamental matter in a free and democratic society.”

If you’re a U.S. citizen born and living in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Marina Islands, or Guam, your right to vote in federal and presidential elections is a lot less fundamental than that of citizens living on the mainland. If you’re willing to move to one of the 50 states, you can join the franchise. Even if you move to D.C., you will still have a larger say on who the next president will be than you would if you live in the territories thanks to the 23rd Amendment.

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David Baugh Lecture: “Lynching, Literacy Tests, & ID Cards, The Suppression of Minority Voters”

By: Caiti Anderson

DBAs an editor of this blog, I keep a constant eye out for election law events to report. Fortunately (for both the blog and myself), I am exposed to brilliant thinkers and passionate advocates. On October 27th, I attended David Baugh’s excellent lecture, “Lynching, Literacy Tests & ID Cards: The Suppression of Minority Voters,” hosted by the Wolf Law Library. Mr. Baugh is a Richmond-based criminal trial lawyer dedicated to protecting and defending the Constitutional rights of all. Some of his career highlights include representing members of al-Qaeda and the Ku Klux Klan in high profile civil rights cases. The American Bar Association, Virginia State Bar, and Old Dominion Bar Association have all recognized Mr. Baugh for his fearless advocacy.  He lives by the maxim he related during the lecture; “Protect the rights of people whom you don’t agree with, because when you do, you defend the rights of America.”


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The Front-Loading Problem: North Carolina Joins the Primary

By: Laura Wright

On September 24th, the North Carolina legislature passed House Bill 373 which, if signed by Governor Pat McRory, will move North Carolina’s presidential, state, and local primaries up from May to March 15th. Sponsored by Riddell (R), Whitmire (R), Brockman (D), and Iler (R), the bill passed with a 52-49 vote in the House and a 30-13 vote in the Senate.

With this move of the primary date come some other changes. The last day for candidates to submit their name to the primary ballot is December 16th. In order to get on the ballot, candidates must collect 10,000 signatures from qualified voters who are registered to the party of that candidate. These signatures must be verified at least 10 days before filing. For candidates wishing to get their name on the primary ballot, be they presidential, state-wide, or local, the clock is ticking.

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