Connecticut and Fair Representation: How Minority Parties Are Guaranteed Representation With “Limited Voting”, And Whether The Practice Burdens The Right To Vote

By Jake Albert

Most elections in our country are winner-take-all.  Parties will spend all of their time and money supporting a certain candidate for office, and the candidate that receives more votes wins 100% of the power.  That is how our country is run at the federal level: we only have one President, no matter how many votes other candidates receive.  But states sometimes employ alternative methods for certain local elections, with Connecticut being one of them.

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Federal Court Ruling Creates Chaos for North Carolina Primaries But There May Be a Solution

By: Blake Willis

Election litigation has experienced a new spike in recent years, with many states being involved with litigation over redistricting plans, Voter I.D. laws, and other ballot access issues. Since the inception of litigation under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), there has been a consistent concern that federal courts should not be involved in determining the policies of voting, re-districting, and other related issues. Cases such as plurality opinion Davis v. Bandemer express such concerns, stating that partisan gerrymandering concerns are not justiciable, and that opening the door for federal courts to examine similar claims may set a dangerous precedent. In Veith v. Jubelirer, Justice Scalia echoed this sentiment, arguing that it is an increasingly difficult task for courts to determine what the predominant factor for drawing a district line may be. The expanding jurisprudence from both partisan and racial gerrymandering cases proves this argument may hold some validity, as evidenced by courts’ disagreement over the correct standard to apply, what the evidentiary standard should be, and who the burden of proof rests upon, as just a few examples. Although this litigation has been ongoing for decades, it is by no means near reaching an end.

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Record Voter Turnout on First Day of Early Voting in Texas

 

By: Justin D. Davenport

Early voting started enthusiastically in Texas on Monday, October 24, 2016. Several counties—including Travis, Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, Bexar, and Hidalgo counties—broke first-day voting records. Most counties saw a marked increase from opening day of early voting in 2012. While some counties have had more modest increases of fifteen (Bexar) or thirty (Tarrant) percent, several counties nearly doubled turnout for the first day of early voting in Texas. Although a seeming paradox in a state with consistently low voter turnout, Texans are showing up early to vote in record numbers, and the Lone Star State has a long history of early voting laws to accommodate citizens who want to cast their ballots before election day.

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Nonpartisan Election Laws Challenged in Montana

Before the 2016 election season even concluded, the 2018 campaign season for one small Montana community had already started heating up. Robin Benson, the Clerk and Recorder of Lincoln County, a small county of less than twenty thousand people, announced on October 18, 2016, in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court of Montana, that she plans on running for reelection in 2018. In the suit, Ms. Benson challenges Montana’s nonpartisan election laws as a violation of candidates’ free speech rights.

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Why Was South Carolina’s Voter ID Law Approved in 2012? Will It Remain?

By: Lane Reeder

Prior to Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, South Carolina was a covered jurisdiction under Section Five of the Voting Rights Act.  In 2011, during Legislative Session 119, the South Carolina legislature passed, and the Governor signed, an act that made voting-related changes.  Section Five of Act R54 (A27 H3003) (2011) dealt with voter identification. Because this happened prior to Shelby County v. Holder, pre-clearance was required.  The State asked for pre-clearance from the Attorney General of the United States, but it was denied.  South Carolina then sought a declaratory judgment in the D.C. District Court.

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Florida Activists Seek Re-Enfranchisement for Felons

By: Ethan Emery

With regards to the right to vote, a fair amount of press time has been spent on the ongoing situation surrounding the voting rights of felons in Virginia. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has attempted to return voting rights to thousands of Virginia felons, even in the face of a countermanding Supreme Court order. However, a little further South, a much larger group of the disenfranchised is seeking similar reforms.

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WV: Can’t Change Your Stripes, At Least Not For 60 Days

By: Brooke Hannah

Everyone knows that anxious feeling that starts to creep in as an upcoming deadline gets closer and closer. Everyone also knows the dread and panic that takes over upon realizing a deadline has passed. If you are fortunate, maybe someone will be willing to provide an extension. Or perhaps there is an alternative way to obtain your goal. Unfortunately for Erik Patrick Wells (“Wells”), the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia did not provide him the relief he had hoped for after he sought an alternative way to obtain candidacy after missing a deadline.

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MD: Success in Voting Rights Restoration and Difficulties in Research

By: Mengxin (Esther) Cui

After a lengthy effort, Marylanders with felony convictions finally regained their voting rights automatically upon completion of their sentences. Unlike most states that automatically restore voting rights to people upon completion of their sentences, Maryland’s new policy does not require people to complete terms of probation or parole before restoring their right to vote (with the one exception that those convicted of buying or selling votes never regain eligibility to register to vote).  This change in Maryland’s policy followed the state legislature’s veto override on February 9, 2016.  Around 40,000 people are the beneficiaries of this override.

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De-Clawing a Badger: Western District of Wisconsin Softens State Voter ID Law

In a sweeping opinion handed down in late July, United States District Judge James Peterson struck a substantial number of voting provisions from the books in Wisconsin. The opinion, which spans 119 pages, found that multiple voter restrictions enacted by the state legislature were motivated by a desire to advantage incumbent and aspiring Republican officials. The court first rejected the plaintiffs’ facial challenge, relying on a 7th Circuit decision which held that even if some voters have trouble complying with the law, and those voters tend to be racial minorities, the law is not necessarily facially unconstitutional. This initial victory in preserving the overall voter ID law marks the extent of the defendants’ success in the case.

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If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them: Seattle’s counterintuitive response to too much money in politics

By: Anna Ellermeier

In November 2015, voters in Seattle approved Initiative 122, creating the first-ever Democracy Voucher Program. The program provides registered Seattle voters with four vouchers—or “democracy dollars”—each worth $25. Voters can then take these vouchers and give them to any candidate for city council, mayor, or city attorney who participates in the program.

Graphic_Democracy Voucher program

The idea for the initiative grew out of a concern about the role campaign financing plays in Seattle elections, and the sentiment that the rich, through their money, have a larger voice in politics. For example, a 2013 study revealed that half of the money raised for races in Seattle’s 2013 election cycle came from just 1,683 donors, which is about 0.3% of Seattle adults.

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