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Redefining unconstitutional: Varnum justices continue to be targets in Iowa

by Patrick Genova

What do you do when you don’t like the ruling of the Supreme Court? In Iowa the answer is easy: get a new Supreme Court. Iowa’s system of judge retention elections makes it unique. Judges are appointed by a council, and at the end of an eight year term the public votes on whether a justice should be retained or let go. Until recently, judges didn’t have to campaign hard for retention; in fact, from 1962 to 2010 every justice was retained. There are no challengers in these judicial elections, the public simply votes for or against retention. In 2010 the system was shaken when three justices, including Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, were voted out of office. Continue reading

Voter ID squabbles continue in Pennsylvania

by Patrick Genova

Starting this November voters in Pennsylvania will face stricter ID requirements at polling stations. A new law requires a voter to present an ID from a list of approved forms of identification each time before casting a ballot. Proponents of the new law, such as PA’s Republican Governor Tom Corbett, say the law will reduce fraud, but the new push for voter ID has many opponents asking about ulterior motives.

An Arizona State University, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism study found that voter impersonation occurred at a rate of only 1 in 15 million for in-person voting. By comparison, the PA Department of State and Transportation estimates that 9% of Pennsylvania’s eligible voters do not meet ID requirements. Analysts at the Brennan Center also point out that a five year prison sentence and $10,000 fine for each count of voter fraud makes it “a singularly foolish way to attempt to win an election.” Continue reading

Supreme Court strikes down corporate spending ban

by Patrick Genova

Late last month the Supreme Court struck down Montana’s ban on corporate spending in elections. Montana was the first of many states to push back against the implications of Citizens United. In February the Montana Supreme Court upheld the ban saying that Montana had a rich history against corporate spending that rises to the level of a “compelling interest”, forcing the Supreme Court to take another look at its holding in Citizens United on appeal.

On the same day the Court ruled on the Affordable Care Act they also struck down Montana’s century old law banning corporate spending. The Court reiterated that corporate campaign donations are no different than contributions by any other citizen. Obama spokesman Eric Schultz said of the opinion, “Citizens United mistakenly overruled longstanding cases that protected the fairness and integrity of elections.” But Despite the mounting criticism the Court stands the same as in 2010 with the same five justices voting against the ban. James Bopp Jr., the attorney pushing for unlimited corporate spending, called the decision, “excellent”.

In deciding against Montana’s ban the Supreme Court has effectively shut down challenges that have sprung up since the Citizens United decision. But what will it mean for the future of Montana’s elections? For now it seems that corporate politics will begin to play a large role, whether its for good or bad. This does not mean that the fight against corporate spending is over. Governor Scweitzer said in response to the decision, “We’re going to overrule the Supreme Court with a constitutional amendment, to make it clear that we the people are in charge of America, not we the corporations. Here in Montana, we’re putting it on the ballot.” While the Court seems to be unwavering in their decision, the war against corporate spending is far from over.


Montana Supreme Court leading the charge against Citizens United

by Patrick Genova

Last month the Supreme Court issued a stay on Montana’s Supreme Court decision upholding corporate spending limits in state elections. It seems that the Court may be ready to reexamine Citizens United. What they’ll find is what many states have been saying all along: Citizens United is out of sync with the values of many states.

Montana was the first of many states to express disdain for unlimited corporate funding. Early last week 55 towns in Vermont passed resolutions proposing a constitutional amendment that would limit the rights of corporations. The Alabama legislature has also been seeking to stop PAC-to-PAC fund transfers that mask donors. Even some members of the Court seem eager to reexamine the effects of Citizens United. In response to the Montana decision, Justice Ginsburg referred to Justice Kennedy’s language in Citizens United decision saying, “Montana’s experience, and experience elsewhere since this court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission make it exceedingly difficult to maintain that independent expenditures by corporations ‘do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.’” Meanwhile some panelists at the Federal Election Commission’s hearing last week urged the FEC not to wait for the Supreme Court to reverse Citizens United and to take regulatory action into their own hands. Continue reading

Montana rebels against Citizens United

Patrick Genova

in-depth article

It may be surprising that the biggest blow to corporations in 2011 didn’t come from Wall Street protestors. Late last month Montana’s Supreme Court took a swing at corporate spending in elections holding, in spite of the decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee, that a 100-year-old law banning corporate spending was valid. In doing so, the court held that the lower court’s reading of Citizens United was erroneous. The Court in Citizens United said, “Laws burdening such speech are subject to strict scrutiny, which requires the Government to prove that the restriction ‘furthers a compelling interest and is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest.’”

So what exactly should be considered a “compelling interest” for bans on political spending? The Supreme Court of Montana answers bluntly that they have met the standard of review set out in Citizens United. In assessing Chief Justice McGrath explains Montana’s long standing fight against corporate spending. Continue reading

IN (ballot access): How Indiana’s blank ballot law is depressing us all

by Patrick Genova

There is something cathartic about voting- walking into the booth, choosing the best candidate, and, of course, pinning yourself with the red, white, and blue badge of honor that proudly says, “I Voted.” And for that one day you can hold your head high at the water cooler next to the bigwig foreign investor who swung into town, and in one week got a date with the girl from accounts receivable that you’ve had the hots for. He’s so worldly isn’t he, but what does he know about civic pride? What does he know about the world’s greatest democratic pastime? Nothing.

New election laws in Indiana may take the spark at the water cooler out of some voters this November. The new law in the Hoosier State, which has the 48th lowest voter turnout, will take unopposed candidates off the ballot. The rationale for the change is that it saves paper, but, while Indiana trees rejoice, the new law leaves little reason for many voters to show up to the ballot box. A skeptic may say that in the case of unopposed candidates there was never a choice in the first place, but the effects of the law have less to do with the outcome of elections, and more to do with the fragile psyche of voters and their perceived notion of choice. Continue reading

All States (motor-voter): The voting poor

by Patrick Genova

Initiatives aimed at registering poor Americans to vote is un-American, or at least that is the conjecture Matthew Vadum made early last month in a controversial article published by American Thinker. Vadum, the author of Subversion, Inc. and Senior Editor for the non-profit watchdog group Capital Research Center, argues that leftist groups are trying to use the poor as a “battering ram” to advance redistributionist policies. The poor masses, Vadum suggests, are the tools with which Obama and like-minded organizations plan to drag America further from small government ideals. Vadum essentially asserts that voter registration is infringing on his American Dream.

The progressive radio host Thom Hartmann went toe-to-toe with Vadum shortly after the article was released. On the Thom Hartmann Program Vadum defended the views he put forward in the article arguing that, given the chance, welfare recipients would vote for their own interests. Hartmann, expressing concern for the one in seven Americans below the poverty line, argued that everyone, not just the poor, votes for their own interests. Vadum had no substantive response to Hartmann’s prodding.

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Meet the new Editors!

It’s a new year at William & Mary Law School, and that means State of Elections has a brand new editorial board! 1Ls Patrick Genova, John Loughney, and Brett Piersma will be taking the reins of the site and handling most editorial duties from here on out.

Here’s some information about the new editors:

Patrick Genova hails from the well-paved streets of Virginia Beach, Virginia. He is a recent graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia where he majored in psychology with a minor in creative writing. While at VCU Patrick was Treasurer and Membership Director of Psi Chi- the International Honor Society in Psychology. His interests include voter equality, and partisan redistricting. When Patrick isn’t blogging he enjoys fine foods and terrible music.

John Loughney is a graduate from the University of Maryland with a BA in French. He loves adventure novels, crossword puzzles, playing blues and jazz on his guitar, scuba diving, fencing epee, traveling, and writing love letters in French. He’s an old-school kind of guy who enjoys gin and tonics and quality conversation. He may be the only young person left who doesn’t use Facebook. His role models include Iron Chef Hiroyuki Sakai, Kermit the Frog, Eric Clapton, and Vladimir Putin. He hopes to practice law internationally, distill his own whiskey, and build custom guitars from scratch. He has experience as a journalist, editor, and translator, and contributes to the Election Law Society his great motivation to eradicate hanging prepositions.

Brett Piersma graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara with a B.A. in History and an M.Ed. in Education. He taught Advanced Placement American Government and European History in California for ten years before attending William and Mary Law School. He has facilitated the California History-Social Science Project, co-authored 11 workbooks for educators, and was a MetLife Fellow for the Teacher’s Network Leadership Institute. He has earned two Teacher’s Network Disseminator Grants, presented at several state and national conferences, and won the UCSB History Associates Outstanding History Instruction award. Among his many interests are the problems of non-voting, the unintentional consequences of political reform, and the impact of federalism and game theory on campaigns.

Chaplins folly was compounded in september of that year when lita announced she was pregnant!

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