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A Shift in Federal Power? Supreme Court to hear Arizona’s Citizenship Requirements for Voter Registration

by James Adam

Arizona law requires individuals to present documents proving U.S. citizenship in order to register to vote. Acceptable proof includes a photocopied birth certificate, photocopied pages of a passport, U.S. naturalization papers or Alien Registration Number, an Indian Census number, Bureau of Indian Affairs card number, Tribal Treaty Card/Enrollment Number, or a photocopy of one’s Tribal Certificate of Indian Blood or Tribal/Bureau of Indian Affairs Affidavit of Birth.  Any change of residence between Arizona counties requires subsequent proof of U.S. citizenship.

In April, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco struck down this Arizona law.  The court declared that federal voting laws requiring only that the applicant sign their name to verify US citizenship supersedes local election law.  In June, the Supreme Court overturned a stay of the decision, and Arizona was unable to require proof of citizenship for registration in the November 2012 election cycle.  However, the state can still urge voters to fill out Arizona registration ballots requiring this proof, but they may not bar an individual from simply registering by merely swearing their citizenship under the federal form.  Also at the time of this decision, the Ninth Circuit upheld Arizona’s photo identification requirement.  The Supreme Court will hear the citizenship arguments early next year. Continue reading

Is a “Top 2” Primary in Arizona on the Horizon?

by James Adam

Come November, voters in Arizona will have the opportunity to drastically alter their election law. If passed, Proposition 121, the “Open Elections/Open Government Act,” will constitutionally eliminate politically affiliated primary elections. The new scheme will allow primary voters to vote for any candidate they wish, regardless of party registration. Although not a requirement, this new law will give voters the option of writing on the ballot their party affiliation when they cast their vote.  Currently Arizona has closed primaries, and voters are allowed to vote solely within their own registered party. If Proposition 121 passes, a primary between all the candidates will occur, and voters will be entitled to vote for whichever candidate they prefer. The two candidates acquiring the most votes will subsequently be placed on the general election ballot. Therefore, it is possible for a scenario where two Republicans gain the most votes in the primary, so both of their names appear on the final general election ballot.  There would thus be no Democratic or third party options. Current examples of states using the top-two primary format include Washington and California. Continue reading

When judges take money: Campaign contributions in judicial elections

by Kevin Elliker

On March 29, 2012, the William & Mary Election Law Society and Election Law Program held a symposium entitled, “More Money, More Problems: Money in Judicial Elections” in Williamsburg, Virginia. The afternoon symposium featured two panels of distinguished speakers moderated by SCOTUSblog reporter Lyle Denniston.

The first panel focused on the financial issues surrounding judicial elections, specifically whether campaign contributions work differently in judicial elections than in legislative elections and if campaign donations result in some form of civic harm even when they do not reach the level of outright bribery. The panelists included: James Bopp, election mega-lawyer and litigator of Citizens United; Justice Thomas R. Phillips, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas; and former Federal Elections Commission Chairman Bradley Smith, who currently serves as Josiah H. Blackmore/Shirley M. Nault Professor of Law at Capital University Law School and Chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics, an organization he founded. Continue reading

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