State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

It’s the Machines: Fundamental Problems with Voting Technology in South Carolina

By: Matthew Woodward

While the 2016 presidential election may have cast light on foreign interference in US elections, the general election of 2018 highlighted an additional, albeit more homegrown, threat: broken and outdated voting machines.

In 2018, as reported by the AP, 41 states used voting machines that were more than a decade old and, perhaps even more alarming, 43 states used voting machines that are no longer in production. One state, South Carolina, offers an unfortunate example of this trend. The bulk of the state’s current voting machines were purchased in 2004, making them nearly 15 years old at the time of the 2018 election.  Some context—2004 was also the year of  such technological feats as the birth of Facebook, the arrival of Skype, and the earliest introduction of cell-phone cameras.

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Can the South Carolina Republican Party Really Cancel its Presidential Primary?

By: Trevor Bernardo

GOP state committees in South Carolina, Kansas, Alaska, Arizona, and Nevada have all cancelled their primary or caucus elections for the 2020 presidential election.  The Minnesota GOP also recently announced that Trump would be the only Republican candidate on its primary ballot.  How can state parties avoid holding a primary election, even if only to confirm or re-nominate an incumbent, that will ultimately determine who will be on the general election ballot, and pledge electors to vote in the Electoral College?

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Kansas Democrats Shift from Caucus to Primary

By: Alexander Reinert


As the nation prepares to vote in the upcoming 2020 presidential primaries, Kansas Democrats made news this past summer as they joined a growing list of states shifting away from caucuses to determine the allocation of their state delegates to the national convention. Citing efficiency purposes, state Democratic Party Chairwoman Vicki Hiatt said that she believes a primary will attract more participants than a caucus. Indeed, about 39,000 people participated in Kansas Democrats’ presidential caucuses in 2016—an unusually high turnout largely due to the enthusiasm of Bernie Sanders’ supporters. Democrats stuck to a traditional caucus format in 2016, whereby participants gathered in groups by the candidates they preferred after listening to speeches by candidate representatives. As a result, some meetings took several hours, which discouraged participation, especially in rural areas of the state where participants faced long drives to get to caucus sites. “People did not want to do that again,” Hiatt said. “It just ended up being a little chaotic.”

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Early Voting in New York State

By: Christoper Hennessy

This most recent election cycle saw voters in New York State trying out early voting for the first time. The legislation passed in January, among other bills designed to expand and modernize New York’s election laws. This brings the state in line with the other thirty-eight states to already have early voting as part of their election laws. Governor Andrew Cuomo praised the effort to pass the legislation. As he signed the bill into law, he noted that “At a time when the federal government is doing everything it can to disenfranchise voters, we are taking action to make it easier for New Yorkers to participate in the democratic process . . . .”

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No More Excuses: Virginia Rolls Back Outdated Absentee Ballot Laws

By: Kira Simon

Elections have consequences. After flipping both chambers of the state legislature, Democrats in Virginia got to work updating the state’s election laws. By the end of January, the state legislature passed laws that will make significant changes to how Virginians vote – especially how they vote absentee.

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Opinion: Virginia’s (Almost) No-Excuse Absentee Voter Law: A Baby Step in the Right Direction

By: Tyler Wolf

Election season may not be upon us quite yet, but that doesn’t stop some from prematurely speculating that Virginians may find shorter lines at the polling precincts in November of 2020. This prediction seems counter intuitive given the political turmoil and controversy that has galvanized voters in recent years, but it can be explained by the passage of SB-1026 in February of 2019. This bill, now set to take effect in November of 2020, creates an exception to Virginia’s excuse requirements for absentee ballot voting. Democratic State Senator Lionel Spruill, the sponsor of SB-1026, postulates that shorter lines and increased voter access are possible results when the law takes effect. Despite these predictions, the actual impact of this law is questionable, as it does little to curb the effects of excuse-required absentee voting laws in Virginia. As enacted, the law simply carves out a narrow exception to an arbitrary practice that violates ideals of personal privacy and widespread access to voting.

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The ID That Gets You Discounted Movie Tickets Now Permits You To Vote

By: Gabrielle Vance

In November of 2018, 55% of North Carolinians voted “yes” to a constitutional requirement that voters must present a photo ID to vote in person. The Governor promptly vetoed it. Then in December, the North Carolina House of Representatives voted in favor to override the Governor ‘s veto.

The resulting law, Senate Bill 824, amends North Carolina’s state constitution to require voters to present valid photo identification. The bill offers voters several examples of acceptable forms of photo ID, such as a driver’s license, a military ID card, and select student IDs. The strict qualifying requirements for student IDs effectively prevent students at some North Carolina colleges and universities from voting in-state, as explained below. If that student then fails to vote by absentee ballot in their home state, young voter turnout could be diminished.

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Who Commissions the Commissioners? The Constitutionality of Nebraska’s Appointed Election Officers

By: George Townsend

On September 24, 2019, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson issued an opinion in which he described the appointment of county election commissioners by the governor of the state or the board of the county as “constitutionally suspect” and suggested that, if challenged, the state’s current process for selecting commissioners could be overturned by the Nebraska Supreme Court.

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Illinois Voters’ Will Thwarted: State Supreme Court Enshrines Strict Limits on Ballot Initiatives, Hampering Efforts to Solve Illinois’ Biggest Problems

In August of 2016, more than 563,000 Illinois voters signed a petition for a ballot initiative that many hoped would end partisan gerrymandering in the Land of Lincoln. The Illinois State Supreme Court quickly dashed those hopes when it struck down the ballot initiative as unconstitutional. The ruling affirms the Illinois constitution’s, exceptionally limited scope of potential ballot initiatives. This ruling has implications far beyond gerrymandering: this decision limits the potential for future ballot initiatives in Illinois, and thus the resolution of many of the state’s thorniest issues..

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Georgia’s Voter Registration Surge: The Investigations and Lawsuits Behind the Numbers

By: Amber Stapleton

Ahead of the 2020 presidential election, with Georgia expected to be a key political battleground, the state has seen a record number of citizens registered to vote. In the last 11 months alone, more that 352,000 Georgia citizens have been registered to vote and the influx has boosted the state’s voter rolls to the record high of nearly 7.4 million. According to one Atlanta Journal-Constitution article which cited the publications own analysis of registered voters from November 6, 2018 to August 12, 2019, “[a]bout 47% of the new voters who identified their race are minorities and 45% are age 30 or younger.”

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