State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

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Opinion: Preventing Election Fraud, At What Cost?

Until recently, North Dakota was viewed as the easiest state for citizens to exercise their voting rights. This was due to the fact that North Dakota, unlike every other state, does not require voter registration. Such a sharp deviation in policy from every other state in the nation is justified by the uniqueness of North Dakota. The state is comprised of mostly rural communities and native reservations, most of which are close-knit communities where people know one another. While voter registration may be essential in more populous states, it makes little sense for North Dakota where, in many precincts, election officials are likely to personally know each individual who casts a ballot. Continue reading

Rage Against the (Voting) Machines: Pennsylvania’s Ongoing Battle for Secure Ballots

By: Kira Simon

“Green Party’s Jill Stein threatens legal challenge to Philly’s new, $29M voting machines.” At first glance, this may sound like a headline from the 2016 election. In fact, it’s a headline from October 2, 2019. Readers of this blog likely remember that Stein settled a lawsuit with Pennsylvania stemming from a state recount of the 2016 election. Why this is still in the news? Let’s run through Pennsylvania’s recent history of voting machine troubles. Continue reading

Welcome Back!

Hello election law community! We have been on summer break and are now returning. Starting next Monday we will be regularly posting on Mondays and Wednesdays during the academic year (other than holiday breaks). Thank you for following State of Elections, and please continue to comment and share!

Summer Hiatus

As school is out of session, the blog will be on summer hiatus until the start of the 2019-2020 academic year. Thank you to all of our bloggers and readers for a great year!

Republicans Remain the Majority Party in Georgia; But all is Not Gloom and Doom for Georgia Democrats

After a highly touted 2018 campaign season which led to historic numbers of early votes in the State of Georgia, it appears that the Republicans will continue to control both the state legislature and executive branch. Additionally, a majority of the state’s Federal House seats went to Republican candidates. But all is not gloom and doom for Georgia Democrats, the Democratic Party did gain eight seats in the State House (six of which were from Republican incumbents), two seats in the State Senate, and one seat in the Federal House.

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Negative Campaigns in the U.S. and Voter Turnout

By: Yang Cao

The United States, as the world leader (for democratic countries at least), may excel in many fields, but in terms of voter turnout it trails far behind other industrialized countries. The voter turnout measured in terms of voting age population was only 55.7% in 2016, while the highest countries report that more than 80% of the voting age population actually votes. Studies show that demographics like education, income and age can help predict voter turnout; but, these factors cannot be the cause of such huge discrepancies in voter turnout between U.S. and countries that have highest voter turnout, as the U.S. should have similar demographics to those countries. On the other hand, some studies have concluded that, while the U.S. and countries like Sweden might have similar demographic, the U.S. has far more negative campaigns than Sweden and other European countries, and that rising negative campaign in the past decades is solely an American phenomenon. Given these facts, it is only natural to ask why politicians have to use negative campaigns instead of positive campaigns, which does not hammer voter turnout. Researchers have also proven that negative campaigns are more effective than positive ones, which means kind persuasion will not stop politicians from doing so. Meanwhile, outlawing negative campaigns is also unrealistic because of it would be content based and subject to strict scrutiny.

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Sweet 16: Teens Fight to Lower the Voting Age Across the Nation

By: Shawn Syed

During Spring Break in Oregon, a group of teens did not go on vacation. Instead, they took to the Oregon State Capital to speak with lawmakers about lowering the voting age to 16. Hundreds of teens spoke out in an attempt to shape their own future. The teens stressed gun control and climate change as two major issues they want to have a voice in.

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An Even More Cynical Form of Gerrymandering for Connecticut

By: Sarah Crowe

In a lawsuit being touted as the “first of its kind”, Connecticut was hit with a federal lawsuit in late June 2018 with the aim of ending the practice of prison gerrymandering. According to the NAACP, prison gerrymandering is “the practice of counting prisoners in the towns where they are incarcerated, rather than at their pre-incarceration address, for the purposes of drawing state legislative district lines. The inmate population in Connecticut is a largely African American and Latino population, and these prisoners disproportionately come from urban centers. The prisons in Connecticut, however, are almost all in rural areas. Though many prisoners have lost their voting rights due to felony convictions, they are still counted as residents where they are incarcerated, inflating the votes of those who live in the rural areas near prisons, who are predominately white.

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The Sunshine State’s Cloudy History of Returning Citizen Disenfranchisement

By: Shawn Syed

When Florida Amendment 4 passed by ballot initiative on November 6, 2018, voting rights advocates rejoiced. A hard-fought battle resulted in Floridians approving the measure with 64.55% of voters in favor of the Amendment. Amendment 4, or the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative, was designed to automatically restore the right to vote for people with prior felony convictions upon completion of their sentences. The Amendment excluded those convicted of murder or felony sexual offenses. The battle for felon re-enfranchisement in Florida did not start with Amendment 4. Unfortunately, it also did not end with Amendment 4.

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2018 Elections: Controversy in Ohio

By: Emma McCarthy

For voters in the state of Ohio, the 2018 Election held in the balance the future of the state’s governance. With major state offices including the Governorship, Secretary of State, and Attorney General all up for grabs, every vote mattered as the next four years of state governance in Ohio was in question. That’s one of the reasons why, on November 6th, the Campaign Legal Center, MacArthur Justice Center, and think tank Demos filed an emergency lawsuit and temporary restraining order in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, asking the court to require state officials to inform individuals currently jailed about their right to case an absentee ballot. In Ohio, absentee ballot requests were due November 2nd, leaving any individual jailed after that time without ability to exercise their right to vote. Therefore, the suit was filed to in order to compel the state to deliver ballots to those individuals jailed, giving them the opportunity to exercise their right to vote.

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