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Tag: 2016 Election (page 1 of 2)

Easy Reading? California’s 224-page Voter’s Guide

By: Tyler Sherman

As November 8—election day—drew closer and Californians geared up to cast their ballots, election officials mailed out the state’s Official Voter Information Guide. The guide listed and explained each of seventeen ballot propositions—the most to appear on a single ballot in sixteen years. But not only was the ballot replete with more propositions than in any election in nearly two decades, the Guide itself set the record of being the longest voter guide in California’s history, at an enormous 224-pages long.

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Idealism vs. Realism: Alternative Paths to Redistricting Reform in an Anticompetitive World

By: Ben Williams

In my previous post for this blog, I compared the competitiveness of congressional races in various states which have enacted redistricting reform to one another—and to the nation as a whole—to discover if Iowa’s acclaimed redistricting reform lives up to the hype surrounding it. Since that post, the 2016 electoral map has changed significantly: several news outlets, such as poll aggregator RealClearPolitics, liberal news outlet Vox, and Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight are all suggested that—while unlikely—there was  at least a conceivable possibility that the Republican Party could lose the House of Representatives. The fact that the House would only be in play in a Democratic wave election speaks volumes about how successful the Republicans’ REDMAP project was in 2011. But this is a blog about election law, not politics.  The 2016 House races brought up several important questions: (1) Were House races truly competitive this year? (2) How did the states which have enacted redistricting reform compare to the national average? And (3) Which method of redistricting reform should reform advocates look to emulate in the non-reformed states?

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De-Clawing a Badger: Western District of Wisconsin Softens State Voter ID Law

In a sweeping opinion handed down in late July, United States District Judge James Peterson struck a substantial number of voting provisions from the books in Wisconsin. The opinion, which spans 119 pages, found that multiple voter restrictions enacted by the state legislature were motivated by a desire to advantage incumbent and aspiring Republican officials. The court first rejected the plaintiffs’ facial challenge, relying on a 7th Circuit decision which held that even if some voters have trouble complying with the law, and those voters tend to be racial minorities, the law is not necessarily facially unconstitutional. This initial victory in preserving the overall voter ID law marks the extent of the defendants’ success in the case.

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Texas: District Court Orders Texas to Re-Write Voter ID Educational Materials, Requires Preclearance Before Publishing Materials

By: Benjamin Daily

In a new development in Texas’ Voter ID saga, U.S District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos found that Texas had misled voters and poll workers about the ID requirements to cast a ballot in the November 2016 election. The new order also requires Texas to obtain preclearance before publishing its educational material. The challenge comes after the Fifth Circuit struck down SB14, the Texas Voter ID law, in Veasey v. Abbott, the Texas Voter ID law last July.

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The Sunlight Keeps Shining: The Supreme Court’s Denial of Certiorari Means that Delaware’s Disinfectant Election Disclosure Law Remains

By: Owen Ecker

In the wake of Citizens United v. FEC, Delaware took it upon itself to counteract the perceived “opening of the floodgates” ushered in by the United States Supreme Court on the issue of corporate third party political expenditures.  As the state’s first major alteration in campaign finance laws for over two decades, House Bill 300, established to generate a greater amount of disclosure from third party advertisers, passed both houses of Delaware’s General Assembly by large margins (about 65 percent in the House of Representatives and 100 percent in the Senate) in 2012.  Thereafter, the Governor of Delaware signed the Delaware Elections Disclosure Act (the “Act”) into law, which became effective in 2013.  However, litigation ensued over the Act’s constitutionality, with one lawsuit making its way up to the Supreme Court.

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Taking the Initiative: Coloradans Set to Vote on Proposal to Limit Ballot Initiatives and Constitutional Amendments

By: Emily Hessler

Coloradans looking to limit the number of citizen initiatives on the state’s ballots are using an unlikely tool to achieve their goal: the citizen initiative. Supporters argue that a proposed measure on November’s ballot––Initiative 71––would “raise the bar” by making it more difficult to get citizen initiatives on Colorado’s ballots and by increasing the percentage of votes required to amend the state’s constitution.

Under Article V of the Colorado Constitution, the ballot initiative is a power “the people reserve to themselves.” Pursuant to this constitutional provision, Colorado citizens can petition to include proposals on general election ballots for new legislation––statutory initiatives––or for constitutional amendments––constitutional initiatives. Twenty-four states allow initiatives, but only sixteen permit that constitutional initiatives go directly on the ballot without first being presented to the legislature.

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Federal Court Order Leads to Last Minute Surge in Florida Voter Registration

By: Ethan Emery

The month of October saw an election case with the potential for a serious impact on the 2016 election resolved in federal court. The result was a week-long extension of voter registration. This case arose in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew as a direct result of the natural disaster’s effect on the state.

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North Carolina’s 2013 Voting Laws Were Struck Down By the 4th Circuit, But The State May Not Be Out of the Legal Fights Yet

By: Blake Willis

When the Fourth Circuit struck down North Carolina HB 589, the notorious law which toughened voter-ID requirements, limited early voting, and limited same-day registration, many who champion voter rights believed that North Carolina’s long-standing history as a state with suppressive voter laws may begin to change. However, that optimism may be short lived as North Carolina is now facing challenges on two other election law provisions.

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South Dakota Redistricting: Legislature or Independent Commission?

By: Bethany Bostron

Along with the extensive campaign finance reform posed by Initiated Measure 22, South Dakotans will be deciding whether to amend the state constitution to have state legislative redistricting conducted by an independent commission. The constitution currently provides that the legislature itself conducts state legislative redistricting. The commission established under Constitutional Amendment T would be comprised of nine registered voters selected by the State Board of Elections in each redistricting year (currently every 10 years). These nine commission members would be selected from a pool of 30 applicants comprised as follows: 10 from the Democratic Party, 10 from the Republican Party, and 10 individuals not registered with either party. Each applicant must be registered or not registered with a party for the three years prior to appointment. Of the nine selected members, no more than three may belong to the same party. Commission members are barred from holding office in a political party or certain local or state offices for the three years before and three years after their appointment. The amendment calls for the new commission to redistrict the state in 2017, 2021, and then every 10 years. The new commission must comply with applicable state and federal law when drawing districts and allow for public comment on the proposed map. Attorney General Marty Jackley’s explanation of the amendment does not state any foreseeable challenges to the change.

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Winds of Change in the Mount Rushmore State

By: Bethany Bostron

Voters in the unassuming prairie paradise of South Dakota will have the opportunity this fall to decide whether the state should create a new public finance system. The state usually flies under the national radar, so when it peeks its head above, you want to pay close attention. The question will be posed as Initiated Measure 22 – “An instituted measure to revise State campaign finance and lobbying laws, create a publicly funded campaign finance program, create an ethics commission, and appropriate funds.” According to State Attorney General Marty Jackley, the measure revises State campaign finance laws by limiting contribution amounts to political parties, political action committees, and candidates running for legislative, state-wide, or county office. The main portion of the plan creates a state-funded campaign finance program. Statewide and legislative candidates who agree to certain limits on campaign contributions and expenditures are able to participate in the funding program. Each registered voter is then assigned two $50 “credits” that he or she is free to assign to any participating candidate. Funding for the program comes from a “State general-fund appropriation of $9 per registered voter,” which is not allowed to exceed $12 million at any given time. An ethics commission is also created to administer the credit program and enforce state law. An additional measure prohibits high-level officials and government employees from lobbying for two years after leaving the government and limits lobbyists’ gifts to officials. The initiative is effectively an overhaul of the current system and Attorney General Jackley cautions voters that “the measure may be challenged in court on [state] constitutional grounds.”

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