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

By Staff Writer

Despite allegations to the contrary, District 22 Republican candidate for state representative, Curt Nisly, maintains that his role as the independent contractor responsible for developing the Elkhart County Election Board/Clerk’s website does not create a conflict of interest for him as a political candidate. He denies that the voter information to which he had access during the site development creates a conflict for his candidacy.  One of his opponents, Democrat David Kolbe, alleges that Nisly’s technological expertise and unique access to voter data provided him with an advantage in terms of targeting voters, or at least creates that perception among members of the public.  Read more

By: Jennifer Vickers

Mississippi garnered unexpected national attention this summer as its system of open primary voting became a contributor to the wider debate of how best to fairly and legitimately select candidates and representatives. If you haven’t been paying attention, Mississippi’s long running Republican Senator, Thad Cochran, came very close to losing his seat to Tea Party Conservative Chris McDaniel in a rather ugly, tight primary race. In an effort to overcome his challenger in a runoff election, Cochran strategically capitalized on Mississippi’s use of open primary voting by asking traditionally Democratic voters to support him in the primary runoff against his far more conservative opponent. In a state where Democrats’ primary voters turned out in less than half the number of participants as the Republican primary, Cochran’s gambit to garner those as-yet uncast primary votes could be considered borderline tactical genius. McDaniel and his supporters are pretty sure, however, that it should be considered less than legal. Read more

By Staff Writer

In 2013, the city of East Lansing, Michigan passed an ordinance requiring landlords to provide their tenants with voter information and registration applications when the tenant first moves into the unit. Home to Michigan State University and its roughly 49,000 student population, East Lansing (by a 4 to 1 City Council vote ) took novel steps to help ensure students are able to register to vote at their college residence. While some landlords believed the ordinance was “way off base,” East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett dubbed the ordinance a “no brainer.” Then-City Clerk Marie McKenna noted that the ordinance would remind students who recently moved from one city residence to another to update their registration. Although in the neighboring state of Wisconsin the legislature recently passed legislation preempting an almost identical city ordinance, some Michigan legislators are aiming to expand this landlord duty statewide.

Read more

By Jonathan Gonzalez

The 2014 midterm elections on November 4th culminated in major victories for the Republican Party, which succeeded in wresting control of the United States Senate from the Democrats by slim margins. Among the Republican Party Senate hopefuls, Ed Gillespie made waves in Virginia on election night, and came within a percentage point of ousting popular Democratic incumbent, Mark Warner. Warner, a former governor of Virginia, came about 16,000 votes shy of suffering a major upset. Read more


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