State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Author: Election Law Society (page 2 of 68)

To Move, or Not to Move (Within the same County): that is the Question Georgia Voters are Trying to Answer

In the wake of the 2018 campaign season, Georgia’s Secretary of State agreed to yet another lawsuit settlement and has instructed local elections officials to automatically update the address of any registered voter who has moved within the same county in the last 2 years.

This settlement was reached nearly a year after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia filed suit against the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections on behalf of Stacey Hopkins, a registered Georgia voter. Mrs. Hopkins was just one of nearly 160,000 Georgia voters that were sent notices stating they would be listed as “inactive” (one of the first steps in being removed from the voter rolls) if they didn’t respond to the notice within 30 days. These registered voters were receiving notices because they had moved (within the same county) and didn’t update their address with the Georgia Board of Registrars.

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Virginia Awarded a $9 Million Grant to Improve Election Security, Has Yet to Spend a Dime

By: Chelsea West

The November 6th midterm elections will soon be upon us and U.S. voters are preparing to go to the polls. Federal, state, and local officials are preparing as well. While voters are debating which candidates to elect, government officials are rigorously working to beef up election security. They intend to do all they can to make sure everyone who is eligible has the opportunity to cast a ballot and that those votes are counted correctly.

Election security is on the forefront of conversation regarding the upcoming November elections. There exist many fears among U.S. intelligence and security officials over possible hacking or cyber-attacks. These fears increased after the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security both accused Russia of orchestrating an operation to hack into the emails of U.S. political organizations and selectively release them to the public.

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In North Carolina, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

By: Andrew Pardue

In June 2018, the North Carolina General Assembly passed Senate Bill 325, “The Uniform & Expanded Early Voting Act.” The bill mandated that all early voting locations in the state remain open from 7 A.M. to 7 P.M. on all weekdays during the early voting period (in 2018, this period begins on October 17). The bill also requires that if one early voting site in a particular county is open on a Saturday or Sunday, then all sites in that county must be open on that day. And then North Carolina’s Democratic Governor vetoed the bill, which had been passed by a Republican legislature with the ostensible aim of expanding early voting hours statewide.
For casual observers of American politics, this outcome probably seems like a suspension of the laws of partisan physics. Why did it happen this way? Because in North Carolina, no change to state election laws occurs without controversy, and even the most innocuous legislation has cascading second-order effects.

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Wisconsin’s 1st District: How the Race to Replace Paul Ryan Was Won Long Before 2018

By: Colin Neal

Wisconsin’s 1st District has been in political prominence since its young Congressman, Rep. Paul Ryan, was tapped as Gov. Mitt Romney’s running mate in the 2012 Presidential election. In 2015, riding the popularity of his Vice Presidential campaign, Rep. Paul Ryan became the youngest Speaker of the House of Representatives in over a century when he replaced Speaker Boehner. More recently, the race to replace outgoing Speaker Ryan in the Wisconsin’s 1st—a district Ryan has represented since 1999—has come under the national spotlight due to excitement about Democrat Randy Bryce, an ironworker and community activist with a bombastic, yet compassionate, attitude. However, Bryce’s race to replace Rep. Ryan may not be so simple. In the midst of a “blue wave” responding to the unpopularity of President Trump, Wisconsin’s 1st is seen as a potential pick-up district for Democrats. However, Wisconsin’s 1st is a product of a statewide gerrymander plan that may very well raise the Republican shoreline above the incoming blue wave, despite Randy Bryce’s efforts. This is due to a failure of the Wisconsin Constitution and Wisconsin statutes to codify requirements for Congressional districting beyond mere administrative advice, namely requiring compactness and respect for existing political borders. Although the Wisconsin Constitution requires such for the redistricting of the state legislature (the compliance with such constitutional mandate notwithstanding), its failure to include such requirement for federal elections has led to a near-insurmountable gerrymander in Wisconsin’s 1st, which may otherwise be quite competitive.

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Protecting the “Purity” of Maryland’s Elections

By: Drew Marvel

In 2013, the State of Maryland entered into a five-year, $7.5 million procurement contract with ByteGrid LLC, a company specializing in computer systems, data management, and software engineering. The deal outsourced, among other things, many of the State Board of Elections’ online systems and election data, including the state-wide voter registration and candidacy platform, the election-management system, the online ballot-delivery system, and the site which reports the unofficial results on election night. All of these election systems, and the voter information and data associated with them, are now housed and stored on servers owned and operated by ByteGrid LLC.

What Maryland officials didn’t know was that in 2015 ByteGrid LLC was quietly acquired by Altpoint Capital Partners, a financing company whose principal investor is Vladimir Potanin, a wealthy Russian oligarch linked to Vladimir Putin and the Russian government.

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A Safe Place for Elections

By: Matthew Catron

Colorado is known for more than just picturesque mountain views and crystal-clear rivers. The Centennial State touts some of the best education, healthcare, and the best state economy in the nation. To add to this impressive list of achievements, Colorado has been christened as the safest state in the nation to host an election.

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Native Alaskan Voter Language Assistance Implementation

By: Jakob Stalnaker

Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act requires certain covered jurisdictions to provide language assistance and bilingual election materials to language minority groups. The determinations are made every five years by the Census Bureau. The criteria for coverage include if either (1) more than five percent of voting age population or (2) 10,000 of the voting age citizens are members of a single-language minority group and do not “speak or adequately understand English adequately enough to participate in the electoral process.” There is an additional provision, covering jurisdictions with more than five percent of American Indian or Alaska Native population residing within an American Indian Area, meeting the same criteria if those citizens do not “speak or understand English adequately enough to participate in the electoral process” and the rate of individuals in that population who have not completed the fifth grade is higher than the national rate.

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Special Election Battle in Wisconsin

By: Richard J. Batzler

As pundits assess the political climate in the lead up to the 2018 midterm elections, special elections provide key insights into electoral trends. Earlier this year, Wisconsin was the site of two State Senate races that buoyed the hopes of those working toward a “blue wave.” But one of these elections almost never took place, as all three branches of state government clashed over whether the Governor had to call special elections in the first place.

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Summer Hiatus

Hello election law community! We have been on summer break and are now returning. Starting today we will be regularly posting on Mondays and Wednesdays during the academic year (other than holiday breaks). Thank you for following State of Elections, and please continue to comment and share!

Mo’ Money, Less Democracy: Washington D.C.’s Quest for Fair Elections

By: Evan Tucker

“[T]he notion that we have all the democracy that money can buy strays so far from what our democracy is supposed to be.” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was clear when queried about Citizens United: large spending in elections by a few eviscerates the essence of democracy. Government in America is “by the People, for the People;” it is not “by the few, for the few.” At the seat of the United States government, District Councilmember David Grosso introduced the “Fair Elections Act of 2017.” Councilmember Grosso aims to “reform campaign financing and to provide for publicly funded political campaigns.” Campaign donations are necessary in electoral politics, for modern-day campaigns are incredibly expensive. For Grosso, though, democracy should not be sold to the highest bidder; that is to say, the largest donor having their preferred candidate elected and in turn having that candidate only responsive to the donor. By introducing his bill, he seeks to establish a balance by “establishing a robust public financing program.”

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