State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Author: Election Law Society (page 2 of 65)

Abortion and the Constitution – Voter Rights in Tennessee

By: Caroline Drinnon

In November 2014, Tennesseans voted, through a referendum, on a proposed Constitutional amendment known as Amendment 1. The campaign was one of the most publicized and most expensive in the state’s history. The amendment passed with 53% of the vote. It reads “[n]othing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion,” effectively giving state legislators unchecked power to ban abortion as far as the U.S. Supreme Court allows. Since its enactment, the Tennessee legislature has passed bills that ban abortion after 20-weeks of pregnancy and require a 48-hour waiting period before an abortion can be performed.

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NV: Automatic Voter Registration Place on the Ballot Following the Governor’s Veto

By: Charles Truxillo

On March 21, 2017, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval vetoed the state’s effort to establish an automatic voter registration system through the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles. If enacted, the the DMV’s voter registration would convert to a compulsory system rather than its current volunteer-based model. After a partisan split, the Governor sided with state Republicans and blocked the bill. The Governor’s veto is not final, as the initiative will now move to a statewide vote in the 2018 election.

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Passing Your Vote Through Security:  The Rise of Risk Limiting Audits in Rhode Island 

By: Eric Lynch

In the 2016 election’s aftermath, United States intelligence agencies speculated that the Russian government hacked various government entities and the major political parties in order to influence the election’s results. It was recently confirmed that twenty-one  states were subject to that foreign attack. Experts cautioned states to take responsive measures since many states take little to no precaution at all.  

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D.C. Campaign Finance Reform

By: Alyssa Kaiser

The world of campaign finance exploded after the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision, Citizens United v. FEC. This decision greatly impacted elections on the national stage and critics raised concerns about the ability of those with the financial means to buy elections. There are also fears about the impact of the decision on elections going forward. States struggle with similar issues in campaign finance, with concerns of “pay to play” politics controlling the District elections. The District of Columbia has important decisions to make going forward if it wants to restore confidence in its elections.

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West Virginia’s Relentless March to Expand Voter Registration

By: Jordan Smith 

West Virginia is undergoing what appears to be a voter registration revolution as the state legislature continues to make strides to simplify access to the ballot box.  The following post aims to discuss these advancements in an effort to summarize the current state of voter registration in the Mountain State. 

In 2013, former-Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, signed into law SB 477, which amended the state constitution to allow for online voter registration (OVR).  The state was not quick to implement the OVR system, as the Secretary of State’s Office did not unveil an official program until the latter half of 2015.  In essence, the now-implemented OVR application requires a registrant to supply the same information required on the paper registration cards: full name, birthdate, location, citizenship status, last four digits of the registrant’s social security number, and the registrant’s driver’s license/state-issued ID number.  If a registrant does not have a state-issued ID or driver’s license, they must instead complete and submit a standard paper form.  As a result,  while OVR streamlines the process for certain registrants, it does so only for those who would likely have already taken advantage of the “motor voter” provisions of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 or the state’s newer electronic voter registration system at the Department of Motor Vehicles.     
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Updating the Golden State: California Begins Implementing New Voting Model

 

 By: Joseph Montgomery 

In the wake of the most recent presidential election, many Americans have closely examined not only whom they vote for, but also how they cast their votes.  Part of this examination includes a look at the actual hardware that allows voters to exercise the fundamental right to vote, and also what methods and services are available to voters before, during, and after state and federal elections.  In California, lawmakers have begun implementing legislation that aims to streamline voting procedures for Californians and update voting hardware. 

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The 2008 Election: How Indiana “Hoped to Change” Early Voting Patterns After Obama’s Victory 

By: Evan Fraughinger

 It was late at night on November 4, 2008, and I was watching the election results from my house in Fort Wayne, Indiana. To everyone’s surprise, as Indiana’s results finalized, Barack Obama was declared the winner of the State. This was the first time that a Democratic presidential candidate won Indiana since Johnson’s victory in 1964 and only the second time since World War II. Voter turnout in Indiana’s two largest and most Democratic counties, Marion County and Lake County, largely explained President Obama’s narrow 28,000 vote victory in the traditionally red state. While many Hoosiers celebrated, according to new allegations in a lawsuit filed by Common Cause Indiana and the NAACP, several Republican officials and the Marion County Election Board began planning how to prevent another Democratic upset. 
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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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