State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Political Attire Bans: What Can You Wear When You Vote?

By: Samantha Becker

On June 14, 2018, the Supreme Court invalidated a Minnesota law that prohibited wearing any “political badge, political button, or other political insignia” inside a polling place on Election Day.” The ban was interpreted to cover a variety of attire, such as t-shirts, buttons, and hats, and versions of the law had been in place for over a century. In a 7-2 decision, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing for the majority, the Court ruled that the Minnesota political attire ban was unconstitutional.

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Proposition E(xclusion): Contentious Term Limits in Arlington, Texas

By: Kendall Quirk

Arlington, Texas is probably best known as the home of the Dallas Cowboys or Texas Rangers, but it may soon be home to some of the strictest city council term limits in the country. On November 6, 2018, Arlington voters will see Proposition E on the ballot, a citizen-written proposition restricting the mayor and council members to three two-year council terms to be applied retroactively and banning current members from running again. The proposition, written solely by Arlington resident Zack Maxwell, was brought to the council by petition with more than 11,000 signatures, with some people stating they were misled when approached to sign.

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The White Rabbit of Pennsylvania: Absentee Ballots [Are] Late For a Very Important Date

By Allie Amado

So you want to use an absentee ballot in a Pennsylvania election? Here are a few tips to make it worth your trouble:

  1. Mail your absentee ballot request at least one week before the election. But I suggest much earlier.
  2. Once you receive your ballot, take care to mark it according to the instructions.
  3. Place your ballot in the mail as soon as possible.
  4. Cross your fingers and hope your ballot reached the county election office before 5 p.m. on the Friday before the election.

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150 Unfortunate Voters

By: Matthew Catron

Again…all eyes are on Florida, this time after the 2018 Midterm Election. While Broward County and the statewide recount seem to be caught in the spotlight, another controversy is brewing in the Florida Panhandle. In this case, the chief election official of Bay County allowed approximately 150 voters to cast their ballots via fax or email.

Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle in mid-October and had a lasting effect on the infrastructure and residents of several coastal counties. As a result of the devastation, Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order extending the deadline for early voting and increasing the number of early voting locations in eight hurricane-hit counties. Gov. Scott issued this executive order pursuant to the governor’s power under the Florida Elections Emergency Act. However, Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen went beyond the governor’s executive order and accepted roughly 150 ballots via fax or email. These electronically transmitted ballots were cast by voters who were displaced by Hurricane Michael.

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Declassifying “the Bunker”

By: Emmalyn McCarthy

Congressional district boundaries are the latest dispute in a string of voting-related cases in the state of Ohio. In May, a lawsuit was filed in federal district court by the Ohio League of Women Voters, Ohio’s chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Initiative, and one democratic voter from each of Ohio’s sixteen congressional districts. The suit pertains to congressional district lines drawn by a Republican-controlled process in 2011 which took place in a closed off hotel room called “the bunker.” Map drawers created a twelve to four, Republican-favored districting scheme, splitting up many counties to create a twelve district Republican voting majority.

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To Move, or Not to Move (Within the same County): that is the Question Georgia Voters are Trying to Answer

In the wake of the 2018 campaign season, Georgia’s Secretary of State agreed to yet another lawsuit settlement and has instructed local elections officials to automatically update the address of any registered voter who has moved within the same county in the last 2 years.

This settlement was reached nearly a year after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia filed suit against the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections on behalf of Stacey Hopkins, a registered Georgia voter. Mrs. Hopkins was just one of nearly 160,000 Georgia voters that were sent notices stating they would be listed as “inactive” (one of the first steps in being removed from the voter rolls) if they didn’t respond to the notice within 30 days. These registered voters were receiving notices because they had moved (within the same county) and didn’t update their address with the Georgia Board of Registrars.

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Virginia Awarded a $9 Million Grant to Improve Election Security, Has Yet to Spend a Dime

By: Chelsea West

The November 6th midterm elections will soon be upon us and U.S. voters are preparing to go to the polls. Federal, state, and local officials are preparing as well. While voters are debating which candidates to elect, government officials are rigorously working to beef up election security. They intend to do all they can to make sure everyone who is eligible has the opportunity to cast a ballot and that those votes are counted correctly.

Election security is on the forefront of conversation regarding the upcoming November elections. There exist many fears among U.S. intelligence and security officials over possible hacking or cyber-attacks. These fears increased after the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security both accused Russia of orchestrating an operation to hack into the emails of U.S. political organizations and selectively release them to the public.

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In North Carolina, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

By: Andrew Pardue

In June 2018, the North Carolina General Assembly passed Senate Bill 325, “The Uniform & Expanded Early Voting Act.” The bill mandated that all early voting locations in the state remain open from 7 A.M. to 7 P.M. on all weekdays during the early voting period (in 2018, this period begins on October 17). The bill also requires that if one early voting site in a particular county is open on a Saturday or Sunday, then all sites in that county must be open on that day. And then North Carolina’s Democratic Governor vetoed the bill, which had been passed by a Republican legislature with the ostensible aim of expanding early voting hours statewide.
For casual observers of American politics, this outcome probably seems like a suspension of the laws of partisan physics. Why did it happen this way? Because in North Carolina, no change to state election laws occurs without controversy, and even the most innocuous legislation has cascading second-order effects.

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Wisconsin’s 1st District: How the Race to Replace Paul Ryan Was Won Long Before 2018

By: Colin Neal

Wisconsin’s 1st District has been in political prominence since its young Congressman, Rep. Paul Ryan, was tapped as Gov. Mitt Romney’s running mate in the 2012 Presidential election. In 2015, riding the popularity of his Vice Presidential campaign, Rep. Paul Ryan became the youngest Speaker of the House of Representatives in over a century when he replaced Speaker Boehner. More recently, the race to replace outgoing Speaker Ryan in the Wisconsin’s 1st—a district Ryan has represented since 1999—has come under the national spotlight due to excitement about Democrat Randy Bryce, an ironworker and community activist with a bombastic, yet compassionate, attitude. However, Bryce’s race to replace Rep. Ryan may not be so simple. In the midst of a “blue wave” responding to the unpopularity of President Trump, Wisconsin’s 1st is seen as a potential pick-up district for Democrats. However, Wisconsin’s 1st is a product of a statewide gerrymander plan that may very well raise the Republican shoreline above the incoming blue wave, despite Randy Bryce’s efforts. This is due to a failure of the Wisconsin Constitution and Wisconsin statutes to codify requirements for Congressional districting beyond mere administrative advice, namely requiring compactness and respect for existing political borders. Although the Wisconsin Constitution requires such for the redistricting of the state legislature (the compliance with such constitutional mandate notwithstanding), its failure to include such requirement for federal elections has led to a near-insurmountable gerrymander in Wisconsin’s 1st, which may otherwise be quite competitive.

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Protecting the “Purity” of Maryland’s Elections

By: Drew Marvel

In 2013, the State of Maryland entered into a five-year, $7.5 million procurement contract with ByteGrid LLC, a company specializing in computer systems, data management, and software engineering. The deal outsourced, among other things, many of the State Board of Elections’ online systems and election data, including the state-wide voter registration and candidacy platform, the election-management system, the online ballot-delivery system, and the site which reports the unofficial results on election night. All of these election systems, and the voter information and data associated with them, are now housed and stored on servers owned and operated by ByteGrid LLC.

What Maryland officials didn’t know was that in 2015 ByteGrid LLC was quietly acquired by Altpoint Capital Partners, a financing company whose principal investor is Vladimir Potanin, a wealthy Russian oligarch linked to Vladimir Putin and the Russian government.

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