State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Author: Election Law Society (page 2 of 67)

The Political Posturing Taking Shape Around Indiana’s Early Voting Rights Litigation: Common Cause Indiana v. Marion County Election Board

By: Evan Fraughiger

Common Cause Indiana v. Marion County Election Board is a case arising out of the region surrounding Indiana’s capital, Indianapolis. Following the 2008 election, Republican members of the Marion County Election Board allegedly engaged in a plan to prevent Marion County (the largest county in Indiana) from expanding its early voting sites. Marion County originally had three early voting locations in 2008 but in every subsequent election, that number was reduced to one solitary site. For a more detailed account of the history of this case and the surrounding context, please read my earlier post here.

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Alabama Ready to Prosecute Crossover Voters

By: Lydia Warkentin

As discussed in my previous blog post, Alabama  passed a law in 2017 prohibiting crossover voting, which occurs when voters vote in the primary of one party and then the primary runoff of another party.  The stated purpose behind the law is to keep members of one party from having an undue influence on the other party’s candidate. “It helps Democrats choose Democratic candidates, it helps Republicans choose Republican candidates,” said Senator Tom Whatley, who sponsored the bill.

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All GAB, No Action

By: George Nwanze

There is an old Latin saying “quis custodiet ipsos custodes” or “who will watch the watchers.” This saying has been invoked countless times over the centuries to suggest that to those who great power is conferred, it must be tempered with oversight. In the state of Wisconsin, however, it is not readily apparent who is behind the wheel of the state’s election process. Starting in 2008, Wisconsin sought to venture in a bold new direction in campaign finance law with its creation of a nonpartisan board, the Government Accountability Board (GAB), that would be tasked with regulation of campaign finance in the state. The GAB had its impetus in the 2001 campaign scandal in which staffers in the state legislature impermissibly used state funds to engage in partisan campaigning. In response to this scandal—in which both sides were accused of misappropriation of public funds–the first act of the 2007 legislative session called for the creation of a state agency, a combination of the state’s ethics and election boards, that would be charged with election supervision.

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Virginia Supreme Court Applies Strict Standard for Removing Elected Officials

By: Cody Brandon

In October of last year, the State of Elections blog previewed an appeal to the Supreme Court of Virginia questioning the requirements of Virginia Code §§ 24.2-233 and 235.  The Court, on March 1, 2018, answered those questions.  As predicted, this decision will have a substantial impact on the process for removing elected officials in Virginia.  For a detailed discussion of the history of the case and the arguments of the parties, read the original post previewing the case.  This post will cover analysis of the opinion and its effect.

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Florida Online Voter Registration: Cybersecurity vs. Burdening Eligible Voters

By: Alannah Shubrick

In 2015, the Florida Legislature passed a bill permitting Floridians to register online to vote. Two years later, registertovoteflorida.gov  finally went live in October. Now, Florida is one among 35 states that allow voters the option to register to vote online. The new online voter-registration system is part of broad efforts across the state to modernize the Florida voter registration system and enable all eligible Floridians to join the electorate.

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Tax Returns as a Ballot Requirement in Massachusetts and Beyond

By: Erik Gerstner

While the 2016 Presidential election was especially notable for a number of reasons, one of the major recurring issues throughout the campaign was the outright refusal of Donald Trump to follow tradition and release previous tax returns to the public, despite calls from observers, both partisan and neutral, that he do so. In the wake of the election, at least 26 states began considering laws requiring presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns in various ways. Among these is Massachusetts, whose legislature is currently considering a bill requiring any candidates wanting their name to appear on a Massachusetts primary ballot to provide the state secretary with a certified copy of their three most recent federal income tax returns.

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Court Closes the Open Records Policy for Elected Officials: Personnel Records Exception under the Kansas Open Records Act

By: Emma Dolgos

In the information age, voters both want and expect access to information about candidates running for public office. The press plays a large role in disseminating such information, but only if they can get access to it.

The Kansas state legislature seemed to agree that the press needs information when they passed the Kansas Open Records Act (KORA). KORA not only stipulates that public records are to remain open for inspection “by any person,” but it also asserts that the act will be “liberally construed and applied” to advance the state’s policy. However, the statute includes a notable exception for personnel records. Section 45-221(a)(4) states that a public agency does not need to disclose “[p]ersonnel records, performance ratings or individually identifiable records pertaining to employees or applicants for employment” (emphasis added) other than names, positions, salary, or actual compensation contracts.

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Maine’s Ranked-Choice Voting System is in Trouble

By: Eric Reid

In 2016, voters in Maine decided to become the first state in the nation to adopt a ranked-choice voting system for state and federal elections.

Most voting systems in the United States are what is called “First Past the Post” system or the “Winner Takes All” system. In this system, the candidate who receives the most votes or a plurality wins the election.  Maine’s new system, also known as “instant runoff”, only applies in races with three or more candidates. At the ballot box, a voter would rank candidates from most-favored to least-favored according to his or her preference. If a candidate got a majority of first-placed votes, then that candidate wins. If, however, no candidate received a majority of first-placed votes, then the least-ranked candidate is dropped and the process begins again. Those voters who picked the dropped candidate would then have their votes reallocated, and the process would cycle until a candidate finally won. For example, in an election with ten candidates, a voter would rank each candidate once from one to ten. The candidate that had the most negative votes would be removed, and the votes reallocated to reflect the dropped candidate. A candidate is dropped in each cycle until a candidate finally receives a majority of votes.

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Legal Voter Suppression in New York?: Part II

By: Michael A. Villacrés

In a previous post, we examined New York’s restrictive voting laws. During the state’s presidential primary in April 2016 it emerged that thousands of voters had been purged from the registration rolls in the months leading up to the primary, creating a public scandal.  The day after the primary vote, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, a Democrat, announced an investigation into New York City’s Board of Elections after his office received over one thousand complaints of voting irregularities.

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Spring Break Hiatus

There will be no new posts the week of March 5th in observation of Spring Break.

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