State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Category: Arkansas

Citizens United and the Arkansas Supreme Court Race

by Euticha Hawkins

Like twenty-two other states, Arkansas selects its supreme court justices via popular election.  The role of money in high court elections has always been an uncomfortable topic, but the specter of Citizens United threatens to transform this state of discomfort into one of true alarm.  Although Arkansas had no express limits on corporate election expenditures before Citizens United, the decision can only embolden corporations seeking to inject more money in Arkansas’s political process.   Continue reading

In Arkansas, Face Off Over New Voter ID Law

by Euticha B. Hawkins, Contributor

Controversy surrounding voter identification laws has now reached the Natural State. On April 1, 2013, the Arkansas state legislature completed a bicameral majority vote overriding Gov. Mike Beebe’s (D) veto of a law requiring voters to show photo ID. The law, which is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2014, provides for the state to issue a free photo ID to voters who lack one. The law also allows a voter without photo identification to cast a provisional ballot on election day. The provisional ballot will be counted if the voter reports to the county clerk or county board of election commissioners by noon of the Monday following the election, with proof of identity or an affidavit showing the voter is either indigent or has a religious objection to being photographed.   Continue reading

News Brief: Arkansas struggles with money in judicial elections

Alli Handler

The consequences of the Citizens United decision have been felt across the country and have been widely reported, including by this blog. Some states are focusing specifically on the effect of unlimited campaign money on judicial elections, with advocates arguing that though money is not is not a true substitute for speech in any type of election, the differences between money and traditional speech are more pronounced in the judicial field.

One example of such a tactic is the recent effort in Arkansas to distinguish judicial elections from other democratic mechanisms. The Arkansas Bar Association’s Task Force on Judicial Election Reform has developed ways to reform judicial elections and to curb the corrosive effect of money on an elected judiciary. Justice Robert Brown, the Chairman of the Task Force, has warned of the danger in failing to distinguish the unique nature of judicial elections: “If they’re not different, it will indeed undermine the dignity and the respect for the courts.”

In early March, 2012, the Task Force delivered three reform ideas during a panel discussion at the Clinton Presidential Library. First, Arkansas may develop a response committee dedicated to publicly identifying false statements made in judicial races. Second, they may create a voter guide with factual information about all the candidates. Third, a non-profit may be formed to encourage candidates to run fair campaigns and to disavow any false statements made by third parties.

Critics charge that holding judicial elections to different standards than other races is dangerous because it would provide a slippery slope that would lead to an unconstitutional reduction in free speech. Moreover, critics say, all political elections should be conducted with integrity, making electoral distinctions between the branches irrelevant.

The problem (or advantage) of unlimited money in judicial elections is an issue debated across the country and will be specifically addressed on March 29, 2012 and William & Mary Law School during the annual Election Law Symposium.

Alli Handler is a first-year law student at William & Mary.


Getting Carded: The Debate over Voter ID Law in Oklahoma

On November 2, Oklahoma voters will confront a long list of state referendum items on which they may vote “yes” or “no.”  Second on the list—tucked between per-student educational spending and revised term limits—is State Question 746, which proposes to amend the state’s voter identification requirements.  Supporters tout the measure as a necessary and low-maintenance way to keep state elections honest.  After all, we require a photo ID for any number of mundane daily transactions, like writing a check or boarding an airplane.  However, a small but impassioned group of opponents argues that while seemingly harmless, in reality the voter ID requirement is the partisan enactment of a runaway legislature, and it threatens the most basic of Oklahomans’ constitutional protections.

If Oklahomans vote “yes” on State Question 746, then effective on July 1, 2011, every person appearing to vote in Oklahoma must first present (1) a state, tribal, or federal government-issued photo ID or (2) a voter identification card issued by the County Election Board.  All government-issued photo IDs must have expiration dates, and must not be expired on the date of the election, except for some identity cards issued to people over 65.  These requirements would apply to all in-person voting, including in-person absentee voting. Continue reading

Weekly Wrap Up

Every week, State of Elections brings you the latest news in state election law.

A number of states are passing new legislation in an attempt to curb the influence of special interests on judicial elections.

Wisconsin state Representative Jeff Stone is pushing for voter ID legislation in that state.  The legislature had previously approved a bill that required photo ID at the polls, but the bill was vetoed by the Governor.

The Maryland legislature is currently debating a bill that would allow 16 year olds to register to vote.

In California, two candidates for state attorney general are preparing for a court battle over what titles they can attach to their names on the ballot.  Titles and nicknames seem to be a particularly contentious issue lately.  Check out this article from last week about Conrad “Colonel”  Reynolds and “Porky” Kimbrell, and their efforts to put their nicknames on the ballot.  Spoiler alert: Colonel = flagrant violation of election law, Porky = perfectly legal.

Here’s an interesting post about the 2010 census and redistricting from the Balkinization blog.

Weekly Wrap Up

Every week, State of Elections brings you the latest news in state election law.

– ACORN, the controversial voter registration and activist group, is disbanding because of declining revenue.

– In the Arkansas Senate race, there’s some controversy over an obscure state law that prevents the use of professional or honorary titles on ballots.  One Republican Senate candidate had hoped to put the title “Colonel” in front of his name on the ballot, but was refused by election officials.  Nicknames, however, are perfectly legal.  Just ask Harold Kimbrell, who will appear on the ballot as “Porky” Kimbrell.

–  During last week’s election law Symposium at William & Mary, the panelists mentioned that census data can be skewed when large numbers of incarcerated felons are counted as “residents” of the state they are incarcerated in.  Here a few editorials discussing that practice.

– More news on the California Redistricting Commission.  Even though over 25,000 people filed the initial application to be on the Commission, less than 1,200 have completed the second step of the application process.  For more general information on the Commission, see this post.

– Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has signed a law that should make absentee voting easier in that state.  The law will require election officials to send a replacement ballot, or notify the voter that he should cast a new ballot, if an absentee voter’s ballot is rejected.

– After much debate, the Florida Senate has passed an electioneering bill.  An alternate version of the bill was ruled unconstitutional for requiring all organizations to register with the state and comply with financial reporting requirements if they even mentioned a candidate or political issue.  The new version of the bill would still require certain organizations to register, but not those that focused only on issues.

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