Virginia’s “Right-to-Work” Amendment: Nothing Has Changed

By: Kelsey Dolin

On November 8th, 2016, Virginians not only cast their ballots for the next president and other elected officials, but also lent their voices to two proposed amendments to the Virginia Constitution. Voters decided against a right-to-work amendment and approved an amendment exempting the spouses of first responders killed in the line of duty from property taxes.

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Why Michigan should remove restrictions on who may cast an absentee ballot

By: Sara Krauss

Michigan Absentee Voting On the Rise

Michigan voters are voting via absentee ballot in increasingly high numbers. In the November 2016 election, approximately one-fourth of Michigan voters used an absentee ballot to case their votes. In the August 2016 primary election, that number was even higher in many counties. In Kent County, 43 percent of votes were cast via absentee ballots; in Grand Rapids, 40 percent of votes were absentee; in Ottawa County, roughly one-third of voters voted via an absentee ballot.

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Pennsylvania is leading the charge to reenact Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act

By: Ebony Thomas

From slavery to Jim Crow, America has a long, dark history in the treatment of its African American citizenry.  Although Congress ratified changes to the United States Constitution three times to benefit African Americans (i.e., the 13th Amendment abolished slavery, the 14th Amendment provided African Americans equal protection, and the 15th Amendment gave African American men a right to vote), the franchise did not come easily for former slaves. Many states imposed barriers, such as poll taxes, literacy tests, intimidation, and other methods, to keep African Americans from accessing the ballot. It was not until 1965, under the leadership of President Lyndon B. Johnson, that the nation affirmed the promise of the Constitution to all Americans and effectively decimated States’ self-imposed barriers that kept African Americans from exercising their right to vote.  This legislation is known as the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

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Wis-communication: Trouble in the Badger State

Despite a July 2016 ruling from a federal District Court invalidating many provisions of Wisconsin’s controversial package of voter ID laws, problems persist for many voters seeking to register to vote, or to procure an ID that will allow them to vote. Reports that certain Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices, which have the authority to issue valid voter IDs, have not fully complied with the federal court’s order continue to crop up.

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Kansas 0-3 in Voter ID Lawsuits

By: Norma Volkmer

Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, narrowly avoided contempt charges in September 2016 which would have been the cherry on top for those in opposition to Kansas’s proof-of-citizenship requirement. The requirement, which requires anyone registering to vote in Kansas provide proof of citizenship via one of thirteen documents, was enacted under the Secure and Fair Elections Act of 2011, and was enforced beginning in 2013.

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Connecticut and Fair Representation: How Minority Parties Are Guaranteed Representation With “Limited Voting”, And Whether The Practice Burdens The Right To Vote

By Jake Albert

Most elections in our country are winner-take-all.  Parties will spend all of their time and money supporting a certain candidate for office, and the candidate that receives more votes wins 100% of the power.  That is how our country is run at the federal level: we only have one President, no matter how many votes other candidates receive.  But states sometimes employ alternative methods for certain local elections, with Connecticut being one of them.

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Federal Court Ruling Creates Chaos for North Carolina Primaries But There May Be a Solution

By: Blake Willis

Election litigation has experienced a new spike in recent years, with many states being involved with litigation over redistricting plans, Voter I.D. laws, and other ballot access issues. Since the inception of litigation under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), there has been a consistent concern that federal courts should not be involved in determining the policies of voting, re-districting, and other related issues. Cases such as plurality opinion Davis v. Bandemer express such concerns, stating that partisan gerrymandering concerns are not justiciable, and that opening the door for federal courts to examine similar claims may set a dangerous precedent. In Veith v. Jubelirer, Justice Scalia echoed this sentiment, arguing that it is an increasingly difficult task for courts to determine what the predominant factor for drawing a district line may be. The expanding jurisprudence from both partisan and racial gerrymandering cases proves this argument may hold some validity, as evidenced by courts’ disagreement over the correct standard to apply, what the evidentiary standard should be, and who the burden of proof rests upon, as just a few examples. Although this litigation has been ongoing for decades, it is by no means near reaching an end.

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Record Voter Turnout on First Day of Early Voting in Texas

 

By: Justin D. Davenport

Early voting started enthusiastically in Texas on Monday, October 24, 2016. Several counties—including Travis, Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, Bexar, and Hidalgo counties—broke first-day voting records. Most counties saw a marked increase from opening day of early voting in 2012. While some counties have had more modest increases of fifteen (Bexar) or thirty (Tarrant) percent, several counties nearly doubled turnout for the first day of early voting in Texas. Although a seeming paradox in a state with consistently low voter turnout, Texans are showing up early to vote in record numbers, and the Lone Star State has a long history of early voting laws to accommodate citizens who want to cast their ballots before election day.

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Nonpartisan Election Laws Challenged in Montana

Before the 2016 election season even concluded, the 2018 campaign season for one small Montana community had already started heating up. Robin Benson, the Clerk and Recorder of Lincoln County, a small county of less than twenty thousand people, announced on October 18, 2016, in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court of Montana, that she plans on running for reelection in 2018. In the suit, Ms. Benson challenges Montana’s nonpartisan election laws as a violation of candidates’ free speech rights.

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Why Was South Carolina’s Voter ID Law Approved in 2012? Will It Remain?

By: Lane Reeder

Prior to Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, South Carolina was a covered jurisdiction under Section Five of the Voting Rights Act.  In 2011, during Legislative Session 119, the South Carolina legislature passed, and the Governor signed, an act that made voting-related changes.  Section Five of Act R54 (A27 H3003) (2011) dealt with voter identification. Because this happened prior to Shelby County v. Holder, pre-clearance was required.  The State asked for pre-clearance from the Attorney General of the United States, but it was denied.  South Carolina then sought a declaratory judgment in the D.C. District Court.

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