State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Tag: 14th Amendment

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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Black Votes Matter: Pennsylvania’s Impressive History of Access to the Franchise

By: Ebony Thomas

Today, Pennsylvania’s voting laws are among the least restrictive of any state in granting its citizens access to the ballot. Pennsylvania is one of the few states that supports the voting rights of people with past felony convictions. Moreover, Pennsylvania has always been a leader in providing its citizens, especially its black citizens, access to its franchise.

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As early as the late 18th century, black freemen in Pennsylvania had the right to vote-well before the passage of the civil rights amendments (the 13th, 14th, and 15th). These gains were short-lived, as black freemen lost their suffrage rights in 1838 when the Pennsylvania constitution was amended. These freemen did not regain their right to the franchise until 1870 with the ratification of the United States Constitution’s 15th Amendment. During their disenfranchisement, blacks still fought for suffrage by petitioning and protesting for the Pennsylvania legislature to reinstate their rights. Yet their efforts fell on deaf ears. It was commonly held that apathy among black freemen and rising racial tensions between blacks and whites lost them their right to vote in Pennsylvania. Surprisingly, once blacks regained their right to vote in 1870, Pennsylvania did not impose any barriers on the franchise, in contradistinction to other states, which imposed barriers like the poll tax and literacy tests that ultimately led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

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The Crossroads of America v. The Lone Star State: Comparison of Indiana and Texas ID Laws

By: Katie Teeters

Voter ID laws are spreading across the country leaving controversies in their wakes. Advocates believe requiring ID is a good way to prevent in-person voter fraud and increase public confidence in the election process, while opponents say that voter ID laws unduly burden the right to vote. Still, a total of 36 states have passed laws requiring a showing of some form of identification in order to vote. This blog post will take a look at voter ID laws and their respective implications in Texas and Indiana.

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Alaska Natives Afforded Voting Rights

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was one of the single greatest accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.  The act bans racial discrimination in voting practices by all levels of government, and was enacted with the specific purpose of enfranchising millions of African-Americans in the South and Latinos in the Southwest, as well as those who had been shut out of the voting process because of their lack of English fluency.  Due to its overwhelming success,  the Voting Rights Act is often considered the “most effective civil rights law ever enacted.” Although a major component of the Voting Rights Act was held to be unconstitutional in the case Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, some states are still experiencing the benefits the Voting Rights Act was meant to provide.

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Native-Hawaiian Self Determination Election Survives Equal Protection Challenge

By: Mollie Topic

In October 2015, a U.S. district judge sitting in Honolulu denied a motion for preliminary injunction to halt an election that is open only to Native Hawaiians. The litigation in Akina v. Hawaii arises out of the Nai Aupuni election, an election process that is ultimately designed to help Native Hawaiians achieve self-determination.

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