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Brian Cannon ’04, J.D. ’11 Named Executive Director of OneVirginia2021 By the Election Law Program

William & Mary Law School and College of William & Mary graduate Brian Cannon recently was named executive director of OneVirginia2021: Virginians for Fair Redistricting<http://onevirginia2021.org>, a multi-partisan effort to amend the Virginia Constitution to establish an independent, impartial redistricting commission to draw political districts. Cannon, who graduated from the Law School in 2011, was the founding editor of the State of Elections Blog<http://stateofelections.com>, former student president of the Election Law Society<http://law.wm.edu/studentlife/studentorganizations/educate/wmels/index.php>, and served on William & Mary’s winning team for the Virginia Redistricting Competition<http://electls.blogs.wm.edu/links/virginia-redistricting-competition/>. He also worked as a student on behalf of clients of the Law School’s Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic<http://law.wm.edu/academics/programs/jd/electives/clinics/veterans/index.php>, and now is a member of the clinic’s Advisory Board.

While an undergraduate at the College, Cannon co-founded the student voting advocacy group Virginia 21, the first political action committee run solely by students, and has since served on the group’s board. Prior to joining OneVirginia2021, he served as director of business development at The Fahrenheit Group.

In a press release announcing his appointment, Cannon expressed enthusiasm for OneVirginia2021’s mission. “Fixing our broken redistricting process is the most important thing we can do for the health of Virginia’s democracy,” he said. “The momentum for reform is building and the time is right to do it now. I am excited to have the opportunity to lead the broad-based movement that is OneVirginia2021 and help make this happen. My experiences in nonpartisan issue advocacy with the addition of my legal background and experience in election law give me confidence that we can do this.”

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Slaying the Gerrymander: How Reform Will Happen in the Commonwealth

By: Brian Cannon ’11 and Ben Williams ’18

Gerrymandering is a political tool that snuck its way into Virginia politics long ago. It has become problematic over time, threatening true democracy in the Commonwealth. This article outlines what those problems are, how other states reacted to similar issues, and what Virginia politicians have done to respond to gerrymandering. It offers proposed solutions to the issues, and calls upon the Virginia General Assembly and elected governor to take action.

To read the rest of the article, please visit the University of Richmond Public Interest Law Review.

Election Law Program Alumni File Redistricting Suit

By: Emily Wagman

William & Mary Law School alumni Brian Cannon ’11 and Nick Mueller ’12 are a force in the latest round of redistricting in the state of Virginia. Cannon, Executive Director of OneVirginia2021, is leading an effort to improve fairness in the redistricting process in Virginia. OneVirginia2021: Virginians for Fair Redistricting has filed a lawsuit challenging 11 state legislative districts in the Richmond Circuit Court. Mueller, working with the Richmond firm DurretteCrump, is one of the lead attorneys on the case. As students, both Cannon and Mueller participated in William & Mary Law School’s award-winning redistricting team during the Virginia Redistricting Competition in 2011.

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William & Mary Law’s Winning Map May Prove Useful as Virginia Legislators Head Back to the Drawing Board

By Staff Writer

W&MLaw-Congress map (1)Back in 2011, a team of William & Mary Law students won first place in the Governor/Commission Division for the U.S. Congressional Map category in the Virginia Redistricting Competition. The project may have started merely as an experiment to see whether students might be able to create useful maps using new redistricting software and real data on Virginia voters. But now that a federal court has declared Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District unconstitutional, the map designed by William & Mary students has taken on a whole new level of importance in the drawing of fair and just Congressional districts in Virginia. Continue reading

Reject perennial ‘Etch A Sketch’ redistricting

by Brian Cannon

Update: Brian Cannon’s letter to the Richmond Times-Dispatch is available here.

Whether Sen. John Watkins’ Martin Luther King Day surprise defies the U.S. Constitution or the federal Voting Rights Act are complicated questions. But the constitutionality of his “re-redisticting” bill might live closer to home. Consider Virginia’s state Constitution.

In Article II Section 6, the Virginia Constitution grants the legislature the authority to redraw district lines with the following passage:  “The General Assembly shall reapportion the Commonwealth into electoral districts … in the year 2011 and every ten years thereafter.  Any such decennial reapportionment law shall take effect immediately….” Continue reading

Sitting Down with Washington’s Director of Elections

I recently had a chance to have an email conversation with Nick Handy, Director of Elections under the Secretary of State for Washington.  With a dedication to public service and a knack for handling tough situations with sensitivity, Mr. Handy has served Washington well and entered a well-deserved retirement at the end of 2010.

Could you tell us a little bit about your background?  What prepared you to be Director of Elections?

I am perhaps an unconventional appointment to an Elections Director position in that I had no experience in elections management prior to the appointment.

I was a long time personal and political friend of the Secretary of State.  I had 30 years experience in senior management in state and local government working in areas of high controversy and political scrutiny.  These included open government after Watergate, natural resource management during the spotted owl and endangered species debates, and oil spill preventing after Exxon Valdez. Continue reading

Redistricting Without Party Politics?!

Redistricting Without Party Politics?!  Is that possible?  A plan for redistricting that the Virginia Assembly will adopt as its own is the goal of the team from William & Mary School of Law.  Along with teams from across the state that have entered the Virginia College & University Redistricting Competition, the WM School of Law Team is out to prove that it is possible to come up with a redistricting plan that is practical, objective, and fair.  Although the competition was put together as an academic exercise, it has evolved into more with the Governor’s Bipartisan Commission on Redistricting taking notice and encouraging the exercise.  While the William & Mary School of Law team is under no illusion that their map will be adopted wholesale by the VA Assembly, they are looking forward to the map being a source of comparison for the Assembly as it crafts official redistricting maps.

The competition is sponsored by the Wason Center for Public Policy and the Public Mapping Project.  Teams will be drawing lines for the VA House of Delegates, the VA Senate, and for federal congressional House districts using Public Mapping software.  The criteria for drawing the maps includes districts that are contiguous, fair in representation, equal in population, in compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act, keeping communities of interest together/respecting existing political subdivisions, compact, and electorally competitive.  The judges for the competition will be Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute.

Members of the William & Mary Law School Team are: Brian Cannon, Alex Grout, John Holden, Meredith McCoy, Rebekah Miller, Nicholas Mueller, Pete Newman, Sam Robinson, and Brian Rothenberg.

Check back for more info on the team and their ongoing progress!

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I Know What You Did Last Summer: Signed a Petition in Washington

Last year, female Facebook users around the world updated their status messages with their bra color.  Version 2.0 of this breast cancer awareness marketing strategy ran this year.  Perhaps some things should be kept private.  But what about our politics?  As vast amounts of information goes digital – from individual campaign contributions to the personal communications of our officials – traditional notions of privacy are giving way to an era of sunshine in all aspects of our lives.

Enter (from stage right) Tim Eyman, a veteran ballot initiative activist in the state of Washington.  If state-wide ballot initiatives create a de facto citizen legislature, then Eyman is the conservative Washington citizen’s whip.  To get an idea on the ballot, initiative supporters must sign petitions, and give such information as their home addresses to verify they’re eligible to sign. Continue reading

Know Campaign Update

In January, we brought you a piece about the Know Campaign and the privacy of your voting history. This post is an update on the lawsuit and changes to the statute:

Here’s a quick rundown of the situation: a non-profit wants to increase voter turnout by telling neighbors who voted in which election. Studies show that it would work. Turns out, only candidates and parties can legally get access to that information (the reality is another thing…). Virginia’s State Board of Elections tells the non profit to stop and they do. Then the non-profit sues b/c the voter history list should be open to all or closed to all.

Two weeks ago the lawsuit was dismissed in the Richmond Circuit Court. According to Bill Sizemore of the Pilot, a settlement was reached, though the group promised to re-file the suit if the law wasn’t changed to allow wider access to the information.

But there’s no guarantee that the changes to the statute will include wider access to the list. A legislative subcommittee has recommended that the list be closed to everyone, according to the Times-Dispatch’s Tyler Whitely. A list closed to everyone means that even candidates wouldn’t have access to a voter’s history either.

To legislators who want to save stamps or avoid knocking on the doors of their unpersuadable neighbors – this would be a huge problem. Campaigns already cost plenty, and according to some legislators this would drive up the cost of their races.

On the flip side of candidate convenience is voter privacy. While at first blush this may sound like the fox guarding the hen house, remember there are plenty of privacy advocates in the Virginia legislature who don’t have regular, expensive races to keep their seats.

The legislative session should end soon, so we’ll have an answer about what the elected officials think on this issue. The next move will be the Know Campaign’s.

Brian Cannon is President of the William & Mary Election Law Society

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Voter Privacy and the Know Campaign

I get tons of political mail.  Most of it I don’t read – after all, it contains little useful information.  But if someone mailed me this, it would surely catch my eye:

political-campaign-mail“Below is a partial list of your recent voting history — public information obtained from the Virginia State Board of Elections…We have sent you this information as a public service because we believe that democracy only works when you vote.”

What if this mailing also contained information about my neighbor’s voting history in order for me to encourage/shame him into voting in the upcoming election?

This is exactly what the Know Campaign in Virginia sought to do this election cycle before legal action stopped them in their tracks.  To read more about that, check out the Washington Post’s story here.  The Know Campaign’s press release that started all of the excitement is here. Continue reading

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