State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Page 2 of 61

Can Virginia Become a Redistricting Unicorn like Iowa?

By Aaron Barden

There was a lizard on the floor of the James City County (JCC) government building’s Board of Supervisors meeting hall on August 8th, 2017. I was there to watch the board consider OneVirginia2021’s resolution, which in most cases does little more than declare support for non-partisan redistricting. But JCC’s resolution was different. The resolution had a paragraph tacked to the end that would have changed the County’s local redistricting procedure from a citizen board with no criteria-based restrictions (preventing use of party, no incumbency protection, etc.) to a reliance on the Board’s staff to draw the lines with such restrictions. Continue reading

Legal Voter Suppression in New York?: Part I

By: Michael A. Villacrés 

In April 2016, Sen. Bernie Sanders was closely chasing Hillary Clinton in the delegate race to capture the Democratic presidential nomination. The Sanders campaign staged outdoor rallies and made campaign stops across New York City in an ambitious bid to upset Clinton on her home turf.  Sanders was hoping that increased voter turnout from young people across the city, especially in Brooklyn, his former childhood home, would provide enough votes to counter Clinton’s strength among minority voters.  As it turned out, Clinton won handily 57% to 42%. 

Continue reading

The New Evolution of Voter Registration in Massachusetts

By: Erik Gerstner

“The right to vote is the most fundamental of all,” wrote Suffolk Superior Court Justice Douglas Wilkins on July 25, 2017, in Chelsea Collaborative v. Galvin, in which he declared the Commonwealth’s law imposing a voter registration cutoff twenty days before an election to fall afoul of the Massachusetts Constitution. A case spearheaded by the ACLU, Chelsea Collaborative sought to end the nearly twenty-five year old law, which according to the plaintiffs disenfranchised thousands of eligible voters each election cycle. Indeed, according to the Boston Globe, nearly 20% of eligible voters said they were not registered to vote because they had missed the early cutoff date. According to precedent set over a century ago in Kineen v. Wells¸ 11 N.E. 916 (Mass. 1887), any legislation diminishing the rights of a constitutionally qualified citizen to vote “must be unconstitutional, unless it can be defended on the ground that it is reasonable and necessary.” Wilkins agreed with the plaintiffs that the current law clearly is neither reasonable nor necessary, and thus must be struck down.

Continue reading

Slaying the Gerrymander: How Reform Will Happen in the Commonwealth

By: Brian Cannon ’11 and Ben Williams ’18

Gerrymandering is a political tool that snuck its way into Virginia politics long ago. It has become problematic over time, threatening true democracy in the Commonwealth. This article outlines what those problems are, how other states reacted to similar issues, and what Virginia politicians have done to respond to gerrymandering. It offers proposed solutions to the issues, and calls upon the Virginia General Assembly and elected governor to take action.

To read the rest of the article, please visit the University of Richmond Public Interest Law Review.

Something Fishy in South Carolina Referendum

By: Chandler Crenshaw

Fish Sandwich

Picture Source Credit: Here

Concern of voter intimidation is not a novelty in politics. When elections may be close, supporters of a proposition may sometimes attempt to influence the election by giving voters an incentive to go to the ballot box for their cause. When these types of allegations occur, they often cause the people to view election results as “fishy”. In South Carolina, a recent school board referendum in Laurens County, situated in the northwest corridor of the state, was fishy. Rather, while the election results were not close, opponents of a failed tax referendum were accused of influencing voters by offering free fish sandwiches to those who voted. Continue reading

Has your Michigan signature expired?

By: Simon Zagata

What do milk, eggs, yogurt, chicken and your signature on a petition have in common? As of June 6, 2016, they all have expiration dates; at least in Michigan.

In the U.S., 24 states and the District of Columbia allow citizens to introduce new laws through petitions. In Michigan, citizens can propose new state laws or constitutional amendments through petitions, if they get enough signatures. Once the petition has enough signatures, the proposed ballot measure goes to the legislature. If the legislature does not pass the proposed law within 40 days, the statute goes on the ballot, and voters get to decide its fate. If the ballot measure receives a majority of “yes” votes, it becomes law.
Continue reading

Ballot Ordering: A Recurrent Controversy in Virginia?

By: Jacob Dievendorf

In at least the two most recent “big” elections in Virginia, the 2016 Presidential race, and the 2017 race for Governor, there has been some controversy over the method used to decide which order candidates appear on the ballot. In March 2017, the Corey Stewart campaign issued a press release accusing Ed Gillespie’s campaign of “manipulating the Virginia Board of Elections in a last-ditch, rule-breaking effort to have Ed’s name placed at the top of the [primary] ballot.” Virginia law provides that ballot order for primaries is determined by the time that a candidate files for the office, on a first come first served basis. If candidates file simultaneously, ballot order is determined by lottery. The Stewart campaign went so far as to camp out in front of the Board of Elections offices the night before in order to be first, but alleged that Gillespie’s campaign was pressuring the Board to consider their filings simultaneous.

Looking back just a bit further, Virginia’s ballot ordering rules also caused some controversy during the 2016 election cycle. In general elections, Virginia law provides that candidates from major political parties, that is, parties that receive more than 10 percent of the vote in two previous statewide elections, are listed on the ballot first, followed by candidates from minor parties, and lastly, the names of independent candidates. This law was challenged by a former minor party candidate for governor, Robert Sarvis, of the Libertarian Party, and eventually found its way up to the 4th Circuit. In June, 2016, a three judge panel of the 4th Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the case, based largely on a theory that the ballot ordering law does not harm minor parties.

It is hard to say whether this controversy will continue. Two data points hardly make a trend, but the issue has proved important enough to drive a gubernatorial campaign to literally camp out in front of the Board of Elections, and a third party candidate to fight a case up to the 4th Circuit. Why is ballot ordering even an issue? Surely voters are able to discern which candidate they prefer, no matter the order of names on the ballot.

Contrary to this notion, there is a body of evidence that suggests that order on a list does matter. It seems that when people make choices, there is some preference for selecting choices that are listed first, or higher, in a list of choices. Larry Sabato, writing for the University of Virginia Center for Politics, has looked at the political implications of this bias. His conclusions contain an interesting implication for ballot ordering in Virginia. While he concludes that races for major offices such as president and governor are not highly impacted by serial position effects, lesser offices and non-partisan races are especially susceptible. Therefore, many “lesser” elections in Virginia, where candidates are not associated with parties, may be especially influenced by this form of selection bias.

It is possible that ballot ordering controversies will go nowhere, and that the issues raised in 2016 and 2017 will be a fluke. On the other hand, in an increasingly polarized voting climate, where parties compete to eke out whatever advantages they can, perhaps the minor advantage gained by being listed first on a ballot will become increasingly attractive. Ballot ordering is a currently minor issue, but one with increasingly significant potential.

Continue reading

Why Go to Wisconsin?

By: George Nwanze

While Gil v. Whitford, the Wisconsin gerrymandering case presently before the Supreme Court, may be absorbing all the legal intrigue, one previously litigated issue involving Wisconsin’s elections has gone unnoticed. Particularly, the state’s voter identification laws and the suppressive effects it has had on voter turnout.

In the aftermath of the 2016 election, perhaps the most common retort of the electoral upset was, “Wisconsin should have gone to Hillary Clinton.” Wisconsin was typically viewed as a reliable Democratic state in presidential elections, as the last time Wisconsin went for a Republican for president was in 1984. However, this assertion was more of a visceral reaction to what many view as a poor political decision, rather than something that the data actual bears out. Fortunately, a recently released study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UWM), sheds some light on whether it actually mattered if “she went to Wisconsin.”

Continue reading

We’re Back!

A new school year has started, and with it comes a new web design! We are currently seeking blog posts, so please email us at wmstateofelections@gmail.com with ideas or articles.

Summer Hiatus

As school is out of session, the blog will be on summer hiatus until the start of the 2017-2018 academic year.

« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2017 State of Elections

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑