WILLIAMSBURG, VA – The Law School is honored to report that Governor Terry McAuliffe has appointed 2009 William & Mary Law alumna Elizabeth Howard J.D. ‘09 as Deputy Commissioner for the Virginia Department of Elections in Richmond. Prior to this appointment, Howard worked as General Counsel at Rock the Vote, a non-profit organization dedicated to engaging young people in politics. Before Rock the Vote, Howard worked as a Senior Associate at Sandler Reiff in Washington, DC, where she specialized in election law working tirelessly, for example, on the recount team for Mark Herring for Attorney General and earlier on the recount team for Lynwood Lewis whose state Senate special election decided control of the Virginia State Senate.

As a student at William & Mary Law School, Howard co-founded the Election Law Society in 2006, a thriving student group that organizes numerous events at the law school on politics and election law, including its annual Election Law Symposium. As a professional, Howard remains involved with the Election Law Society and generous mentor to many William & Mary Election Law Society students and recent grads. In 2014, Howard received the Society’s Alumnus of the Year Award for her work in the field and dedication to forwarding the interests of the Election Law Society.


William & Mary Law School and College of William & Mary graduate Brian Cannon recently was named executive director of OneVirginia2021: Virginians for Fair Redistricting<http://onevirginia2021.org>, a multi-partisan effort to amend the Virginia Constitution to establish an independent, impartial redistricting commission to draw political districts. Cannon, who graduated from the Law School in 2011, was the founding editor of the State of Elections Blog<http://stateofelections.com>, former student president of the Election Law Society<http://law.wm.edu/studentlife/studentorganizations/educate/wmels/index.php>, and served on William & Mary’s winning team for the Virginia Redistricting Competition<http://electls.blogs.wm.edu/links/virginia-redistricting-competition/>. He also worked as a student on behalf of clients of the Law School’s Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic<http://law.wm.edu/academics/programs/jd/electives/clinics/veterans/index.php>, and now is a member of the clinic’s Advisory Board.

While an undergraduate at the College, Cannon co-founded the student voting advocacy group Virginia 21, the first political action committee run solely by students, and has since served on the group’s board. Prior to joining OneVirginia2021, he served as director of business development at The Fahrenheit Group.

In a press release announcing his appointment, Cannon expressed enthusiasm for OneVirginia2021’s mission. “Fixing our broken redistricting process is the most important thing we can do for the health of Virginia’s democracy,” he said. “The momentum for reform is building and the time is right to do it now. I am excited to have the opportunity to lead the broad-based movement that is OneVirginia2021 and help make this happen. My experiences in nonpartisan issue advocacy with the addition of my legal background and experience in election law give me confidence that we can do this.”

By Thomas J. Lukish

Lukish Post 2Late September featured more than a mere drop in temperatures for Alaska residents, as U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason issued an interim order that would shake the state’s electoral landscape. Read more

By: Geoff Tucker

It is no secret that the typical poll worker tends to be a senior citizen; indeed, the average age of those volunteering to work the polls is seventy-five. As new technologies are implemented for use in elections, however, there has been a growing push for younger volunteers who are presumably more tech-savvy. In efforts to recruit this younger demographic, California amended its election law statutes to allow high school students to serve as poll workers if certain conditions are met, including a minimum GPA and age requirement. Read more

By Carl Zielinski

Although previously thought above the campaign tactics of the political branches, in recent years, judicial elections have become the most recent political dark money battleground. Judicial races are considered “low-information,” in that voters are often unfamiliar with specific candidates; advertisements against one of a judge’s past opinions could constitute all a potential voter knows about a given candidate.  In this way, a comparatively small amount of money can play a significant role in a judicial election. Read more

By Sarah Wiley

A federal judge in Cincinnati struck down an Ohio law which criminalizes intentionally lying in campaign ads or statements, on the books for decades in early September on First Amendment grounds. The state filed an appeal in October. Read more

By Caitlin Whalan

The gubernatorial race in Maryland, the notoriously blue state, was tighter than anticipated. Larry Hogan, the Republican nominee, narrowly beat out the Democratic candidate, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown. Now that the dust is beginning to settle from the shocking upset, a new issue is creeping into the forefront: faulty voting machines. Read more

By Sarah Graffam

In a recent lawsuit, the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union challenged a law that prohibits the posting of photos of marked ballots on social media. The NHCLU states, “there is no more potent way to communicate one’s support for a candidate than to voluntarily display a photograph of one’s marked ballot depicting one’s vote for that candidate.” NH RSA 659:35(I) bans a person from displaying a photograph of a market ballot, including on the internet through social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. A willful violation of this statute may be punishable by a fine up to $1,000. Read more

By Vanessa Rogala

The Lone Star State has decided to shine some of its Texas sun on the dark money used in elections. “Dark money” is a phrase commonly used to describe donations made by undisclosed donors. For the last several years, dark money been a growing concern in federal and state elections. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, spending by political organizations that do not disclose their donors increased from approximately $5.2 million in 2006 to over $300 million in the 2012 election. Some credit this rapid increase in dark money to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which held that the federal government could not limit organizations from spending money to influence the outcome of elections. And, in an 8 to 1 decision, the Supreme Court also held that Congress can compel disclosure of that  money spent on influencing elections, stating, “prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters.” The Supreme Court’s push for disclosure, however, launched the creation of super PACs and the growing use of disclosure loopholes. Given how quickly dark money has become an influential factor in elections, many states, including Texas, are attempting to address dark money within their borders. Read more

By Fahad Naeem

“It’s not the hand that signs the laws that holds the destiny of America. It’s the hand that casts the ballot.” The power given to voters to choose who gets elected to office is a vast and important right to protect. The people vote for candidates that best represent the interests and perform the duties required of their offices. However, states can steal that power from citizens by allowing state legislators or the governor to appoint officers for vacant positions, as New York had done in its state constitution. New York’s constitution effectively deprived voters of the ability to elect a candidate of their choice. The Attorney General and Comptroller positions can be occupied from several months to several years without any check or say by the voters. That provision was inconsistent with the goal articulated by New York’s constitution in Article 1 Section 1 which states:  “No member of this state shall be disfranchised, or deprived of any of the rights or privileges secured to any citizen thereof . . .” Read more

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