State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Author: Election Law Society (page 1 of 71)

Summer Hiatus

As school is out of session, the blog will be on summer hiatus until the start of the 2019-2020 academic year. Thank you to all of our bloggers and readers for a great year!

Republicans Remain the Majority Party in Georgia; But all is Not Gloom and Doom for Georgia Democrats

After a highly touted 2018 campaign season which led to historic numbers of early votes in the State of Georgia, it appears that the Republicans will continue to control both the state legislature and executive branch. Additionally, a majority of the state’s Federal House seats went to Republican candidates. But all is not gloom and doom for Georgia Democrats, the Democratic Party did gain eight seats in the State House (six of which were from Republican incumbents), two seats in the State Senate, and one seat in the Federal House.

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Negative Campaigns in the U.S. and Voter Turnout

By: Yang Cao

The United States, as the world leader (for democratic countries at least), may excel in many fields, but in terms of voter turnout it trails far behind other industrialized countries. The voter turnout measured in terms of voting age population was only 55.7% in 2016, while the highest countries report that more than 80% of the voting age population actually votes. Studies show that demographics like education, income and age can help predict voter turnout; but, these factors cannot be the cause of such huge discrepancies in voter turnout between U.S. and countries that have highest voter turnout, as the U.S. should have similar demographics to those countries. On the other hand, some studies have concluded that, while the U.S. and countries like Sweden might have similar demographic, the U.S. has far more negative campaigns than Sweden and other European countries, and that rising negative campaign in the past decades is solely an American phenomenon. Given these facts, it is only natural to ask why politicians have to use negative campaigns instead of positive campaigns, which does not hammer voter turnout. Researchers have also proven that negative campaigns are more effective than positive ones, which means kind persuasion will not stop politicians from doing so. Meanwhile, outlawing negative campaigns is also unrealistic because of it would be content based and subject to strict scrutiny.

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Sweet 16: Teens Fight to Lower the Voting Age Across the Nation

By: Shawn Syed

During Spring Break in Oregon, a group of teens did not go on vacation. Instead, they took to the Oregon State Capital to speak with lawmakers about lowering the voting age to 16. Hundreds of teens spoke out in an attempt to shape their own future. The teens stressed gun control and climate change as two major issues they want to have a voice in.

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An Even More Cynical Form of Gerrymandering for Connecticut

By: Sarah Crowe

In a lawsuit being touted as the “first of its kind”, Connecticut was hit with a federal lawsuit in late June 2018 with the aim of ending the practice of prison gerrymandering. According to the NAACP, prison gerrymandering is “the practice of counting prisoners in the towns where they are incarcerated, rather than at their pre-incarceration address, for the purposes of drawing state legislative district lines. The inmate population in Connecticut is a largely African American and Latino population, and these prisoners disproportionately come from urban centers. The prisons in Connecticut, however, are almost all in rural areas. Though many prisoners have lost their voting rights due to felony convictions, they are still counted as residents where they are incarcerated, inflating the votes of those who live in the rural areas near prisons, who are predominately white.

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The Sunshine State’s Cloudy History of Returning Citizen Disenfranchisement

By: Shawn Syed

When Florida Amendment 4 passed by ballot initiative on November 6, 2018, voting rights advocates rejoiced. A hard-fought battle resulted in Floridians approving the measure with 64.55% of voters in favor of the Amendment. Amendment 4, or the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative, was designed to automatically restore the right to vote for people with prior felony convictions upon completion of their sentences. The Amendment excluded those convicted of murder or felony sexual offenses. The battle for felon re-enfranchisement in Florida did not start with Amendment 4. Unfortunately, it also did not end with Amendment 4.

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2018 Elections: Controversy in Ohio

By: Emma McCarthy

For voters in the state of Ohio, the 2018 Election held in the balance the future of the state’s governance. With major state offices including the Governorship, Secretary of State, and Attorney General all up for grabs, every vote mattered as the next four years of state governance in Ohio was in question. That’s one of the reasons why, on November 6th, the Campaign Legal Center, MacArthur Justice Center, and think tank Demos filed an emergency lawsuit and temporary restraining order in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, asking the court to require state officials to inform individuals currently jailed about their right to case an absentee ballot. In Ohio, absentee ballot requests were due November 2nd, leaving any individual jailed after that time without ability to exercise their right to vote. Therefore, the suit was filed to in order to compel the state to deliver ballots to those individuals jailed, giving them the opportunity to exercise their right to vote.

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The Legacy of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act

By: Yang Cao

Although the Supreme Court has made section 5 of the Voting Rights Act essentially ineffective by declaring section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional, the legacy of section 5 remains. The non-retrogression standard of section 5 is unsuitable to the current political situation of the United States and it has created problems in the past that continue to impact the United States today.

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Virginia Midterms are Over, but Legal Case on Forged Signatures in 2nd Congressional District Continues On

By: Chelsea West

Elaine Luria, a Democrat, has defeated Republican Congressman Scott W. Taylor in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. Luria captured 51.1 percent of the vote, followed by Taylor with 48.9 percent. Taylor has represented the district in the House since 2017.

Despite the race being over, a legal case against Taylor’s campaign looms large. A public news station in Norfolk, Va. first reported in August 2018 that Taylor’s campaign was engaging in the underhanded practice of helping a rival qualify for the ballot to split potential opposition votes. According to documents filed with the FEC and the Virginia Department of Elections, workers on Taylor’s campaign collected hundreds of signatures to put an independent candidate in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District election.

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The Lone Star State: Hardly Alone in Election Administration Issues

By: Shawn Syed

Election administration is complex, to say the least. Decentralization, low funding, and a myriad of other issues play a role in the problems of administrating our elections. Every single state is sure to encounter some form of administration problem during election season. Texas is not alone in facing these issues. Below are just a few different issues Texas encountered leading up to and during the 2018 midterm elections.

The State of Texas received more than $23 million from the federal government in 2018 for a sole purpose: enhancing election security. This money comes thanks to the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). HAVA’s stated purpose is to establish a program to provide funds to states to help the security and administration of elections. According to the Texas Secretary of State’s office, only a portion of the $23 million had been used prior to the midterm election. A new monitoring tool, intrusion detection systems, and firewall protections were all put into place. The thought is that these tools will help discover potential problems by 2019 in order to fix them by the 2020 presidential election.

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