State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Florida Online Voter Registration: Cybersecurity vs. Burdening Eligible Voters

By: Alannah Shubrick

In 2015, the Florida Legislature passed a bill permitting Floridians to register online to vote. Two years later,  finally went live in October. Now, Florida is one among 35 states that allow voters the option to register to vote online. The new online voter-registration system is part of broad efforts across the state to modernize the Florida voter registration system and enable all eligible Floridians to join the electorate.

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Tax Returns as a Ballot Requirement in Massachusetts and Beyond

By: Erik Gerstner

While the 2016 Presidential election was especially notable for a number of reasons, one of the major recurring issues throughout the campaign was the outright refusal of Donald Trump to follow tradition and release previous tax returns to the public, despite calls from observers, both partisan and neutral, that he do so. In the wake of the election, at least 26 states began considering laws requiring presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns in various ways. Among these is Massachusetts, whose legislature is currently considering a bill requiring any candidates wanting their name to appear on a Massachusetts primary ballot to provide the state secretary with a certified copy of their three most recent federal income tax returns.

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Court Closes the Open Records Policy for Elected Officials: Personnel Records Exception under the Kansas Open Records Act

By: Emma Dolgos

In the information age, voters both want and expect access to information about candidates running for public office. The press plays a large role in disseminating such information, but only if they can get access to it.

The Kansas state legislature seemed to agree that the press needs information when they passed the Kansas Open Records Act (KORA). KORA not only stipulates that public records are to remain open for inspection “by any person,” but it also asserts that the act will be “liberally construed and applied” to advance the state’s policy. However, the statute includes a notable exception for personnel records. Section 45-221(a)(4) states that a public agency does not need to disclose “[p]ersonnel records, performance ratings or individually identifiable records pertaining to employees or applicants for employment” (emphasis added) other than names, positions, salary, or actual compensation contracts.

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Maine’s Ranked-Choice Voting System is in Trouble

By: Eric Reid

In 2016, voters in Maine decided to become the first state in the nation to adopt a ranked-choice voting system for state and federal elections.

Most voting systems in the United States are what is called “First Past the Post” system or the “Winner Takes All” system. In this system, the candidate who receives the most votes or a plurality wins the election.  Maine’s new system, also known as “instant runoff”, only applies in races with three or more candidates. At the ballot box, a voter would rank candidates from most-favored to least-favored according to his or her preference. If a candidate got a majority of first-placed votes, then that candidate wins. If, however, no candidate received a majority of first-placed votes, then the least-ranked candidate is dropped and the process begins again. Those voters who picked the dropped candidate would then have their votes reallocated, and the process would cycle until a candidate finally won. For example, in an election with ten candidates, a voter would rank each candidate once from one to ten. The candidate that had the most negative votes would be removed, and the votes reallocated to reflect the dropped candidate. A candidate is dropped in each cycle until a candidate finally receives a majority of votes.

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Legal Voter Suppression in New York?: Part II

By: Michael A. Villacrés

In a previous post, we examined New York’s restrictive voting laws. During the state’s presidential primary in April 2016 it emerged that thousands of voters had been purged from the registration rolls in the months leading up to the primary, creating a public scandal.  The day after the primary vote, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, a Democrat, announced an investigation into New York City’s Board of Elections after his office received over one thousand complaints of voting irregularities.

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Spring Break Hiatus

There will be no new posts the week of March 5th in observation of Spring Break.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Ohio’s State Redistricting Commission

By: Spencer Murray

In 2015, Ohio voters approved a state constitutional amendment that reformed the process for drawing district lines for the state legislature. Previously, state legislative redistricting had been managed by a five-member Apportionment Board, consisting of the governor, the secretary of state, the state auditor, and one member of the state legislature from both parties. New district lines only required a simple majority vote to enter into effect.

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A Loophole in State Law and the U.S. Election Fraud Commission

Earlier in the year, President Donald J. Trump announced his decision through an executive order to establish the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, a working group designed in his view to eliminate voter fraud. Concerned with potential for state voter rolls to be inaccurate and misused, the election fraud commission sought voter rolls from all 50 states to vet and review. While the specific tasks of the election fraud commission remain unknown, the ultimate goal, at least publicly, appears to be to ensure the most accurate electoral outcomes possible.

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Same Day Voter Registration in Hawaii

By: Avery Dobbs

The Hawaii legislature took an important step towards reducing barriers to voting rights in 2014 by voting to allow same day voter registration at the polls. This is a significant change from the state’s previous rule, which required voters to register at least thirty days before an election to be allowed to vote. The state sought this measure in hopes of addressing its chronically low voter participation rates and to make voting rights more accessible for all Hawaiian citizens. Hawaii’s Chief Elections Officer, Scott Nago, spoke in support of the bill at the time by saying, “any qualified person who wants to vote should be able to register and vote”. The state will soon start to see the benefits of this law as it takes full effect in 2018.

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The Continuing Implications of Virginia’s Off-Year Elections

By: Jacob Dievendorf

As readers of this blog will well know, each state has its own particular electoral quirks. One of Virginia’s best known quirks is its off-year election of a governor. As a previous posting on this blog points out, Virginians have been electing their governor in off years for as long as they have been electing governors directly, since 1852.

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