State of Elections

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Electoral Competitiveness in Washington State – Part Two

By: Rachael Sharp

As established in Part One, a facial analysis of two possible measures of competitiveness – margins of victory and incumbent reelection rates – seems to indicate that Washington’s independent redistricting commission has not been especially successful at accomplishing its mandated goal of creating competitive elections in the state. However, this analysis may not be dispositive as a judgement against the success of the commission as a whole. In fact, the lack of change in the metrics of competitiveness analyzed in Part One also may actually be an indicator of the commission’s success in other ways.

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She Doesn’t Even Go Here: Proof-of-Residency Requirements in Kansas Elections

By: Emma Dolgos

In May 2017, President Trump appointed Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State, to a new Commission on Election Integrity to assist in the study of voter fraud, improper voter registration, voter suppression, and other voting irregularities. Just one month later, Kobach announced his campaign for governor of Kansas. Kobach’s public statements—both as Vice-Chair of the Commission and a gubernatorial candidate—have led to increased attention on Kansas’ state election laws, particularly the laws related to fraudulent voting.

While a number of civil rights groups have been targeting proof of citizenship laws in Kansas as they affect immigrants to the United States, few groups have given equal attention to proof of residence laws that affect current American citizens. The Kansas constitution requires a voter to reside in the state of Kansas. Further, Kansas Statutes Annotated § 25-407 states that residency encompasses a person’s place of habitation in which he or she has the “intention of returning.” The law, in its current form, hinges on the intent of each individual voter, which is arguably challenging for the state to disprove.

Proponents of this proof of residency law, including Kobach, argue that the law protects state elections from the undue influence of out-of-state voters. Kobach, in his criticism of New Hampshire elections, argues that voters have not met the legal requirements to obtain a state driver’s license and are therefore nonresidents of the state. These nonresidents do not have as much as an interest in or attachment to the state. The argument follows that nonresident votes constitute voting fraud because they are cast by ineligible voters and because they cancel out residents’ votes. This mirrors Kobach’s argument about Kansas’ proof of citizenship laws; he contends that “[e]very time an alien votes, it cancels out the vote of a U.S. citizen.” If too many nonresidents vote, they will have a disproportionate influence on state electoral outcomes.

However, opponents of Kansas’ residency requirement argue that the law is not tailored enough to solve the nonresident, fraudulent voting problem. While the law requires an intent to return to Kansas, it does not provide for a verification method. The County Election Officer determines whether an address is in located in the voting district, but the officer does not verify if the address corresponds to the specific voter. Election officers do not even have to ask for paperwork—deeds, leases, bills, and so on—connecting voters to a residence. Moreover, Kansas’ voter identification laws permit a voter to present a driver’s license from Kansas or from another state within the United states. Thus, election officials could not rely on a voter’s identification to indicate his or her intent to remain in Kansas for residency purposes. This dilemma seemingly makes the intent of a resident unprovable. People can openly abuse the law by claiming intent to return to an address “they no longer own and no longer have any legal right to occupy.”

These deficiencies in administration of the law begs the question, what is necessary to demonstrate an intent to return to Kansas? Perhaps Kansas should follow the lead of New Hampshire, the very state Kobach criticized for its ineffective residency laws. To give teeth to the law, the Kansas legislature could consider adding a provision requiring voters to provide documentation tying the voter to the address. For college students, documentation might include proof of enrollment or a “room-and-board” receipt rather than a utility bill or deed. Further, a backup mechanism would need to be set up for those voters who could not produce documentation at the time of registration.

There are legitimate concerns with ineligible voters canceling the power of valid voters in both state and federal elections. While attention predominantly goes to noncitizen voting laws, it is important to remember that valid voters can be harmed by residents from other states voting in Kansas or by residents from one county voting in another. A resident from Kansas likely would not want a New York resident choosing their representatives. That New York resident doesn’t even “go” to Kansas in the sense that she arguably does not share the same interests and concerns as a Kansan.

Since Kobach has drawn national attention to nonresident fraud problems in New Hampshire, it seems imperative that he—and the Kansas legislature—seriously discuss the future of their own proof of residence provision.

 

Squashing the Praying Mantis: Why Maryland 3rd Should be Redrawn

By: Zach Allentuck

The Washington Post called it the “second-most gerrymandered” district. Its shape is comical and unwieldly. It has been compared to a praying mantis. This is Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District. Yet, when the topic of gerrymandering in Maryland arises, Maryland’s 6th Congressional District receives an outsized amount of attention and focus. The focus on the 6th makes some sense; it is the focus of a federal court case. Certainly, from a lawsuit perspective, focusing on a district where the incumbent lost his seat because of gerrymandering makes more sense than a district where the incumbent kept his seat. However, the 3rd is still more gerrymandered, because it is a weirder shape and the margin of victory for Democrats in the 3rd is higher than it is in the 6th. It is good that both the current governor, Larry Hogan, and the former governor, Martin O’Malley, agree that the gerrymandering in Maryland is bad. However, they should speak out about the 3rd specifically, because, as stated before, the 3rd is more gerrymandered, and because it makes more political sense to focus on the 3rd. The two should draw attention specifically to the 3rd.

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Electoral Competitiveness in Washington State – Part One

By Rachael Sharp

Prior to 1983, Washington was among the large number of states whose state and national electoral districts were drawn by its state legislature. This arrangement changed in 1983, when a constitutional amendment (as enacted in § 43 of the Constitution) made Washington the third state to have an independent commission conduct its redistricting process. Washington’s commission is a five-person panel made up of two Democratic appointees, two Republican appointees, and one nonvoting chairperson chosen by the four appointees.

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Snow Days: Postponing Elections for Weather Emergencies

By: Samuel Holliday

On March 14, 2017, municipalities in the state of New Hampshire were set to have their annual town elections. However, a powerful nor’easter was approaching New England, bringing with it near blizzard conditions, and many were concerned that the inclement weather would hinder the democratic process. Almost eighty towns decided to postpone their elections despite Governor Chris Sununu (R)’s warning that they would be exposed to potential lawsuits. The issue that arose and, as of November 1, 2017, remains in question is a conflict between state laws governing town elections. Section 669:1 of the state code requires that towns hold their elections on the second Tuesday in March, but Section 40:4 allows town moderators to reschedule the “voting day of a meeting” during weather emergencies.

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Tiebreakers Across the Country

By: Cody Brandon

“A tie is like kissing your sister” – the famous phrase widely attributed to Navy football coach Eddie Erdelatz – is emblematic of the American competitive spirit. On my way home from Christmas vacation I scanned through AM radio stations broadcasting in the mountains of western Virginia to listen to the Oklahoma-Georgia College Football Playoff game that refused to end in a tie. The NFL has created a series of 12 tie-breaking procedures that end in a coin toss to determine the winner of a division. One of the most exhilarating legal practices in the NHL is the shootout to break a tie, topped perhaps only by the illegal act of dropping one’s gloves. The Constitution even provides a tie-breaking procedure for the Presidential election in the Twelfth Amendment.

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Winter Break Hiatus

The blog will be taking a break from December 15 until January 8.

Have a happy holiday season!

North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement: When did this happen?   

By: Hannah Littlefield

 Senate Bill 68 (“SB 68”) is arguably the most interesting election law issue in North Carolina. SB 68 merged the North Carolina Board of Elections and the State Ethics Commission, forming the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. The boards merged in June 2017; however, Governor Roy Cooper has yet to appoint members to the new board 

What is SB 68? SB 68 is a revision of Senate Bill 4—a bill created by the Republican-led General Assembly—that was struck down by a three-judge panel. The three-judge panel originally ruled that the merger was unconstitutional. Republican lawmakers revised Senate Bill 4, now SB 68, and passed the new bill on April 25, 2017. What is so interesting about SB 68? Three things: (1) SB 68 was created without a severability clause; (2) Governor Cooper filed a lawsuit against the legislative leaders arguing that SB 68 violates the Separation of Powers clause, interferes with the Governor’s ability to “faithfully execute the laws,” and violates the “non-delegation doctrine;” and (3) the press has not really caught on to the importance of the issues surrounding SB 68.   

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Judge Blocks Controversial New Hampshire Voter Registration Law 

By: Samuel Holliday 

On Tuesday Sep. 12, 2017, a New Hampshire Superior Court judge placed a temporary restraining order on the enforcement of penalties under the controversial voter registration law known as Senate Bill 3 pending further judicial review. The law, signed by Governor Chris Sununu (R) on July 10, 2017, provided stricter penalties ‒ a fine up to $5,000 and a jail sentence of up to a year ‒ for failure to provide documentation that supports a voter’s domicile in the state if they register within 30 days of an election. The decision was handed down on the day of the first election in the state which would have been affected by the new law, with instructions that the decision be relayed to localities holding elections. 

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No Star-Crossed Party Voting in Alabama: Stick with Your Party  

By: Lydia Warkentin

Roy Moore’s defeat of Senator Luther Strange in a special Republican primary runoff in Alabama dominated  the news cycle this September. But flying under the radar is a new Alabama law (Act No. 2017-340), signed by Governor Kay Ivey last May, that prohibits “crossover” voting in party primaries and runoffs. The law states that voters, if required to return to the polls for a primary runoff, like the one on September 26, can vote only for the party they voted for in the primary. In other words, a voter cannot vote in the Democratic party’s primary and then vote in the Republican party’s runoff. Only those who voted in the Republican primary on August 15, or those that did not vote at all, were permitted to vote in the September 26 runoff. Supporters say the goal of the law is to prevent one party from having an improper effect on another party’s race.  

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