State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

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Alaska Joins Growing Number of States with Automatic Voter Registration   

By: Grace Greenberg-Spindler 

Alaska’s automatic voter registration law went into effect March 1, 2017, making Alaska one of ten states, the fourth state to do so in this year, to enact such legislation. The new bill was introduced through Ballot Measure 1 (15PFVR), which passed in the November 8, 2016 referendum with more than 63% of support from Alaskan voters. The bill also received bipartisan support from Republican leaders Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Dan Sullivan and Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux as well as Democratic Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins and former Sen. Mark Begich.      

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Maine’s Attempt at PAC Regulation 

By: Eric Reid

 The issue of money in politics is certainly nothing new, but recent elections have shined a national spotlight on the issue of campaign finance. U.S. federal election campaigns have become increasingly expensive, and the past three presidential election cycles have seen a steep rise in spending. The 2016 election price tag was an incredible $6.8 billion, which was an $800 million increase in spending since the 2012 election. It is important to note that this figure includes money spent by both campaigns, outside groups, and independent organizations. Federal congressional races have fared no better. The 2012 presidential election was in turn a $700 million increase from the 2008 election. The special congressional election in Georgia in June saw the candidates and Super PACs spend a whopping $55 million.
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Show-Me Your Voter ID

By: Victoria Conrad

The phrase “I am from Missouri. You have got to show me” struck a new chord to voters this June.

June brought a new era for elections in Missouri: voters are now required to show identification to fill out a ballot. After decades of battling over a voter identification law, Republicans in the state legislature finally got their way. Continue reading

Who Would Dare Hack Delaware?

By Dorronda Bordley

As the investigation of Russia’s role in the 2016 Presidential election continues, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) finally announced which states experienced hacking attempts within the last year. Among those targeted was Delaware. With only three Electoral College votes and a consistent Democratic voting record in the last seven presidential elections, it is bizarre to see Delaware in the company of swing states like Wisconsin, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. However, unlike Virginia, which is updating its voting system to ensure election security, Delaware is updating its voting system for a very different reason: efficiency. Continue reading

Continuing One-Hundred Years of Federal Disenfranchisement in Puerto Rico

In 1917 President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones Act granting Puerto Ricans American citizenship. Last June 11th Puerto Rico held its sixth plebiscite (popular vote) on altering its territorial relationship with the United States. This was Puerto Rico’s fifth plebiscite on this issue in twenty-six years. While 97% voted in favor of Puerto Rican statehood, as a result of political boycotts, only 23% of the eligible voters participated. Voter turnout in previous plebiscites ranged from 60% to 78%. Continue reading

TX State Courts Wrestling with Corporate Contribution Restrictions post-Citizens United

By: Evan Lewis

This summer, the Texas Supreme Court, Texas’s highest court for civil, family, and probate matters, released their highly anticipated opinion in King Street Patriots v. Texas Democratic Party. This case, amongst other issues, contemplated whether or not corporate contribution restrictions are constitutional after the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision Citizens United. The overall decision was unanimous, but only eight of the nine justices agreed that corporate contribution restrictions are constitutional.

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Florida Former Felons Form Franchise Focus

By: Alannah Shubrick

All men are created equal. Then, some of those men go forth into the world and commit felonies. While felons in Maine or Vermont can cast ballots from the comfort of their prison cells, those convicted of felonies in Florida permanently lose their ability to vote.

Florida is one of only four states that permanently disenfranchise felons. Each of these states has procedures whereby individual felons can apply for clemency. However, in Florida, felons must wait an additional five years after completing the terms of their sentence before applying for clemency consideration. Then, only about 8% of clemency requests are granted.

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How to Help the Homeless Vote in Hawaii

By: Avery Dobbs

The state of Hawaii has had the lowest voter turnout rate in the country in the past five presidential election cycles. While the reasons for low turnout rates are nuanced and multifactor, it is safe to say that at least part of the problem is inaccessibility of the polls for Hawaii’s many homeless residents. Hawaii currently has the highest rate of homelessness per capita in America with over seven thousand homeless residents in the state. Homeless residents are extremely vulnerable to public regulations but often have a limited say in decision making due to impediments to voting while homeless. While the only legal requirements for voting in Hawaii are 1) being properly registered to vote, 2) being a U.S. citizen and resident of Hawaii, and 3) being over the age of 18, the issue for homeless voters is how to register to vote without having an address or a photo ID. Continue reading

Texas Follows the Trend of Eliminating Straight Ticket Voting

In June, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 25 into law, which will eliminate the straight ticket voting option beginning in 2020. In the November 2016 elections, an estimated 63% of voters cast straight ticket ballots. The biggest selling point among supporters of the law revolves around the idea that voters will work to be more informed once it is in place, as the current straight ticket system allows voters to vote blindly for one party. A proposed amendment, requiring Department of Justice confirmation of the constitutionality of the measure prior to removal of straight ticket voting, did not pass with the bill. Continue reading

Efforts to Challenge Pennsylvania’s 2011 Redistricting Continue into 2017

By: Scott McMurty

Election law—and particularly map drawing—in Pennsylvania carries the potential to have significant impacts on the composition of government in Washington, as the state has long been considered a battleground in national elections. Yet despite its reputation for competitiveness, Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation has consisted of thirteen Republicans and just five Democrats in the past three Congresses, following a redistricting overhaul by the Republican-controlled state legislature in 2011. This imbalance has sparked calls for redistricting reform in Pennsylvania, and in June became the subject of a legal challenge in Commonwealth Court by the League of Women Voters and disgruntled voters from some of the state’s more “convoluted” districts.

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