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William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Category: Virginia (page 2 of 8)

Crafting Competitive Criteria: The Institution is Critical

By: Benjamin Williams

With the rapid increase in political polarization in recent years, momentum is building in several states to dramatically alter the redistricting process after the 2020 Census. True to the idea of the states being laboratories of democracy, there have been state constitutional amendments in Florida, partisan gerrymandering challenges in Wisconsin, Maryland, and North Carolina, redistricting criteria bills in Virginia, as well as a myriad of racial gerrymandering challenges. But the new idea—based on a blend of Iowa-style and Florida-style redistricting—is to create stringent criteria for legislatures to follow. That idea is simple enough: if the redistricting body (legislature, independent redistricting commission, college students, etc.) is forced to follow strict criteria when redistricting, the result will be “better” districts that aren’t ugly and are more competitive. But does the data actually bear this out?

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Linda Greenhouse Speaks at William & Mary School of Law

By: Caiti Anderson & Kelsey Dolin

William & Mary Law School had the pleasure of hosting Linda Greenhouse on September 22. Ms. Greenhouse is a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the New York Times who has covered the Supreme Court for thirty years.

She is also a Senior Research Scholar in Law, Knight Distinguished Journalist in Residence, and Joseph Goldstein Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School, where she teaches various courses on the Supreme Court. Her books include Becoming Justice Blackmun, Before Roe v. Wade: Voices that Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court’s Ruling, The U.S. Supreme Court: A Very Short Introduction and The Burger Court and the Rise of the Judicial Right (written with Michael J. Graetz).

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Republican National Convention: William & Mary Law Student in the Virginia Delegation

William & Mary Law School student Bethany Bostron ‘17 found herself at the center of the storm at the recent Republican Convention in Cleveland. Bostron served as a delegate for Virginia at the Convention. In that role, Bostron assisted in an attempt to petition for a roll call vote that would allow delegates to reject new party rules that consolidated power in the RNC and to have the opportunity to cast a vote for someone other than Trump.  Quoted in USA Today, Bostron expressed a great deal of frustration. “On Monday, I was in charge of collecting signatures for the state of Virginia for a petition for a roll call vote, and I worked hard all Sunday night,” she explained. The next morning they “couldn’t find the secretary so we were hunting all over to find someone to hand [the petition] in to. We got everything in and the establishment just shut us down.”

Bostron’s front-row view of American Democracy illustrates the level of engagement of William & Mary Law students in the election process. Reached after the event, Bostron added… “I am very disappointed that the establishment would not allow delegates to play a role in selecting the rules that the party will operate under for the next four years. However, the experience has motivated me to become even more involved in the party and work to elect leaders who will allow grassroots participation. Outcomes are important, but the process we use to achieve those outcomes also matters.”

Bostron is also the subject of a Washington Post mini-documentary on Virginia delegates. Check it out here (Bostron appears starting at approximately minute 5).

Read the USA Today article quoting Bostron here.

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Why Aren’t Virginia Voters Voting in Year 3 Elections?

By: Melissa Ryan

Virginia holds elections every year in November: Year 1 for Governor (most recently 2013); Year 2 for the U.S. Congress (2014); Year 3 for the Virginia legislature and statewide and local offices (2015); and Year 4 for the President and U.S. Congress (2016).

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The Political Power of Wealth?: An International Perspective on Campaign Financing

By: Hannah Thompson

In June 2013, the New Zealand Parliament passed the Local Electoral Amendment Act 2013 with the primary intention of tightening rules on campaign financing in local elections. The Act determined that donations exceeding NZD $1,500 (roughly USD $995) – whether in cash, or in goods and services – made to candidates in relation to an election campaign could not be done so anonymously. Any person involved in the administration of the affairs of a candidate, relating to his or her election campaign, can now be liable for failing to disclose a donor’s identity (where it is known) for a fine not exceeding NZD $5,000 (USD $3,380). The relative modesty of the donation amount to be disclosed is intended to ensure that the identities of all moderate financial contributors to local electoral campaigns are publicly accessible information. In addition, the Electoral Act 1993 determines that candidates must file a return with the New Zealand Electoral Commission in respect of all donations from a single donor exceeding a total of NZD $30,000 (USD $19,900).

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Shades of Grey: Virginia’s Ongoing Struggle to Ensure Proportionate Minority Representation

By: Hannah Thomson

As of 2014, African Americans made up just under 20% of Virginia’s total population. Yet, of the eleven congressmen and women elected from Virginia, incumbent Bobby Scott is currently the only African American representing the state, and only the second to be elected in the state’s entire history. This means that, while amounting to almost 20% of the total population, only 9% of Virginia’s seats in the House of Representatives are held by African Americans. Statistics improve slightly when looking at Virginia’s General Assembly. Of the one hundred members of the House of Delegates, thirteen representatives are African American (13%); of Virginia’s forty senators, five are African American (12.5%). Ultimately, a total 12.8% of the Virginia’s legislators are African American, falling about 6% below the total African American population in the state.

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Compactness and Political Considerations in Virginia General Assembly Districts

By: Emily Wagman

On September 14th, fourteen plaintiffs represented by DurretteCrump PLC filed suit in the Circuit Court for the City of Richmond against the Virginia State Board of Elections, alleging that their respective House of Delegates and State Senate districts are not compact. Compactness is one of the Virginia Constitution’s three redistricting criteria. Along with compactness, the Voting Rights Act (VRA) requirements, and the “one person, one vote” requirement, districts must be contiguous and as close to equal in population as possible. Contiguity and equal population are relatively easy to determine, by looking at the proposed maps and the population data, respectively, compactness is more complicated.

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David Baugh Lecture: “Lynching, Literacy Tests, & ID Cards, The Suppression of Minority Voters”

By: Caiti Anderson

DBAs an editor of this blog, I keep a constant eye out for election law events to report. Fortunately (for both the blog and myself), I am exposed to brilliant thinkers and passionate advocates. On October 27th, I attended David Baugh’s excellent lecture, “Lynching, Literacy Tests & ID Cards: The Suppression of Minority Voters,” hosted by the Wolf Law Library. Mr. Baugh is a Richmond-based criminal trial lawyer dedicated to protecting and defending the Constitutional rights of all. Some of his career highlights include representing members of al-Qaeda and the Ku Klux Klan in high profile civil rights cases. The American Bar Association, Virginia State Bar, and Old Dominion Bar Association have all recognized Mr. Baugh for his fearless advocacy.  He lives by the maxim he related during the lecture; “Protect the rights of people whom you don’t agree with, because when you do, you defend the rights of America.”

 

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Lee v. Virginia Board of Elections: Wait, Virginians have to present a photo ID to vote?

By: Melissa Ryan

In 2013, Republican majorities in both houses of the Virginia General Assembly enacted a “voter ID law” that significantly restricts accepted forms of identification that voters must present before casting a ballot on Election Day. Now, officers at the election booths will require voters to present one of the following forms of photo identification: (1) a valid Virginia driver’s license; (2) a valid United States passport; (3) any photo identification issued by the Commonwealth, one of its political subdivisions, or the United States; (4) a valid student identification card containing a photograph of the voter and issued by any institution of higher education located in the Commonwealth; or (5) a valid employee identification card containing a photograph of the voter and issued by an employer of the voter in the ordinary course of the employer’s business. Any voter that is unable to present an acceptable form of photo identification at the polls will be offered a provisional ballot, but the voter must deliver a copy of a proper form of identification to the electoral board by noon of the third day after the election. Provisional voters may submit copies by fax, e-mail, in-person submission, timely United States Postal Service, or commercial mail delivery.

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Muddying the Waters: Publishing Proposed Redistricting Remedies

By: Darcee Case

The most recent action in Virginia’s ongoing redistricting saga involves a motion to make the proposed remedial plans available on a publicly accessible website. Perhaps ironically, it is the Defendants (Alcorn) suggesting that the proposals be posted online, while the Plaintiffs (Personhuballah) argues that general public input is not necessary or appropriate.

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