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William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Author: Election Law Society (page 2 of 71)

Elections With Justice

By Kendall Quirk

On Election Day 2018, Justice Department officials were sent to Tarrant County (Arlington and Fort Worth), Harris County (Houston), and Waller County (west of Houston). While Tarrant County election officials reassured the public that their presence was nothing to be concerned about, and Harris County said, “It’s just routine,” many voters may be unaware of the reason for the interest in these counties’ election proceedings. At the time of the Shelby County v. Holder decision in 2013, the state of Texas was a covered jurisdiction under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which required the state to submit any changes in voting procedures or election law to the Department of Justice for federal approval to ensure minority voters were protected at the polls. Since pre-clearance is no longer required, states do not have to submit changes to the Department of Justice for approval, yet federal oversight still exists in the form of visits from Department of Justice officials.

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Minnesota Unable to Use Federal Funds to Improve Election Security

By: Samantha Becker

Election security was a significant concern leading up to election day in Minnesota. During the 2016 election campaign, the Department of Homeland Security determined that Russia attempted to hack into twenty-one state election systems. One of the states targeted was Minnesota. The attempt was unsuccessful, but it still raised concerns about the state’s ability to detect and protect against future election cyberattacks.

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A Conversation with Professor Ken Mayer: Voter ID and Election Law in Wisconsin

By Richard J. Batzler

In recent years, Wisconsin has been a battle ground over many controversial election law changes, including a voter ID requirement. I spoke with University of Wisconsin Professor Mayer about his research on the impacts of voter ID in Wisconsin and recent election law changes in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

Kenneth Mayer is a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Professor Mayer’s election law scholarship includes campaign finance, voter identification, and election administration. Additionally, Professor Mayer has filed expert reports in cases involving voting rights, gerrymandering, and campaign finance, among other issues. Continue reading

League of Women Voters of New Hampshire President Liz Tentarelli on HB 1264 and SB 3

Two controversial New Hampshire election laws, HB 1264 and SB 3, have found their way into the New Hampshire state courts over the past several months. HB 1264, which was discussed in a previous article, will not take effect until 2019. The League of Women Voters of New Hampshire, however, sought a preliminary injunction to enjoin SB 3 from being used in New Hampshire’s midterm election. The New Hampshire Superior Court granted the injunction, finding that the bill placed an undue burden on voters. The New Hampshire Supreme Court, however, overruled the lower court’s order. While the court did not opine on the underlying merits of SB 3, the justices found that the order would create “a substantial risk of confusion and disruption of the orderly conduct of the [midterm] election.”

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Massachusetts’s Automatic Voter Registration System to be in Place in Time for 2020 Primaries

By: Jared Mullen

As the final votes are counted following the 2018 midterms, attention inevitably shifts to 2020 and the presidential primaries. In Massachusetts, that will mean a new automatic voter registration (AVR) system, which will automatically register any citizen who completes a transaction at the Registry of Motor Vehicles or signs up for MassHealth, a state insurance provider. The AVR system, which was signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker in August 2018, also allows the Secretary of State to expand the program to other state social agencies once state employees verify that they collect the requisite information to register voters. Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, estimates that AVR could bring 500,000 new voters on to the rolls in the state. Common Cause estimates that there are approximately 650,000 Massachusetts residents who are not registered to vote despite being eligible.

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In North Carolina, Voters Choose the Devil(s) They Know

By: Andrew Pardue

North Carolina, a notoriously divided swing state, managed to find a surprising degree of political consensus on a variety of proposed changes to the state constitution in the 2018 midterm elections. Voters considered six potential amendments to the state constitution, three of which concerned various aspects of election law. One amendment would require voters to present photo identification in order to vote in-person. A second would change both the composition and the appointment process for the state’s Bipartisan Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. The third would allow the legislature to nominate judicial candidates for vacancies that arise in between elections, and then require the governor to select an appointee from among that pool of candidates.

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A New Color Under the Voting Rights Act?: Part Two

This is part two. Part I can be viewed here.

Can white minority plaintiffs successfully prove a vote dilution claim under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA)?

Although a federal district court in the Northern District of Texas recently dealt with such a claim, it stopped short of answering this question by sidestepping the question.

Plaintiffs Anne Harding, Gregory R. Jacobs, Holly Knight Morse, and Johannes Peter Schroer challenged a Dallas County Commissioners Court district map from 2011 under Section 2 of the VRA and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment claiming that “the absence of a second county commissioner district that is capable of electing a representative of their choice” diminished their capacity to participate in the political process. Continue reading

A New Color Under the Voting Rights Act?

Last August a federal court in the Northern District of Texas ruled on an election law case that, upon initial review, may seem run of the mill. Upon further examination, it is nothing of the sort.

The case dealt with a vote dilution claim under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), in which the plaintiffs claimed that their ability to elect an official of their choice in the Dallas County Commissioners Court election had been diminished by the way that the district map was drawn in 2011.

However, the claim itself is not unusual, but the oddity lies the status of the plaintiffs – white minority voters in Dallas County.

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Primaries and Parties: Fusion Confusion?

By: Jonathan Barsky

This is the second of two posts raising potential constitutional flaws in California’s recently adopted “Top Two” primary system. This system allows the two candidates who receive the most votes, regardless of party affiliation, to advance to the general election in a wide array of state and federal races. This post will analyze a First Amendment objection rooted in the associational rights of political parties.

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Top Two Primaries and Third Party Voters: A Due Process Mathematical Mismatch

By: Jonathan Barsky

California currently employs an unusual electoral system, which is colloquially known as the “Top Two” primary, in both federal and state elections. Under this system, all of the candidates are thrown into a nonpartisan “jungle primary” that takes place in June and the two candidates who earn the most votes, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the November general election. The only exception to these rules is the presidential election, which still remains open to all major party candidates and several minor party and write-in candidates.

Over two posts, I will address potential constitutional flaws in California’s primary system. This post will discuss a Fourteenth Amendment injury that voters suffer stemming from the Due Process Clause, while the second post will analyze a First Amendment objection rooted in the associational rights of political parties, focusing on California Democratic Party v. Jones and Washington State Grange v. Washington State Republican Party.

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