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Tag: Ballot Access (page 1 of 2)

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

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.

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Small Parties Put Up Big Fight for Ballot Access in North Carolina

By: Collin Crookenden

Though the history of minor-party candidates dates back to long before the advent of political primaries, the solidification of the two major political parties has prohibited third-party candidates from being true challengers in presidential races. In fact, since George Wallace’s semi-successful campaign in 1968, no third-party representative has won a single electoral college vote. Instead of vying for the presidency, like Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 or Wallace in 1968, recent minor-party candidates are running to “make a statement against the two-party system.” However, the 2016 presidential election cycle highlighted the lack of faith in the two major political parties and the strengthening desire from many for strong third party or independent presidential candidates. Both major-party candidates had unfavorable ratings higher than 50% through Election Day, which activated a large push for third-party candidates on all state ballots and questioned state laws on ballot access.

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New York, Fusion Voting, and Gary Johnson – What’s an Independence-Libertarian to do?

By: Caiti Anderson

There is no state quite like New York – and not many election laws quite like New York’s, either. As one example, only New York and six other states permit fusion voting. On a fusion ballot, a candidate can be listed as candidate for more than one party. Fusion voting, as noted the 1997 Supreme Court decision of Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party, had its heyday during the Gilded Age. Political parties, rather than governmental entities, distributed their own ballots to voters but did not affirmatively tell voters what other parties endorsed the same candidate(s) they supported. Thus, Candidate Smith could be supported by both the Granger and Republican parties, but those who voted the Granger ballot would not necessarily know from the ballot the Granger party handed them that the Republican Party also supported Smith.

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Recent New Jersey State Election Law Limits Delivery of Mail-In Ballots by Authorized Individuals

By Briana Cornelius

On August 10, 2015, the New Jersey legislature passed a new state election law, Public Law 2015, Chapter 84, which limits the number of “Vote by Mail” ballots that a designated delivery person can pick up and deliver on behalf of other registered voters. Under the New Jersey “Vote by Mail Law,” an “authorized messenger” is an individual who is permitted to obtain mail-in ballots for other qualified voters. Previously, authorized messengers were allowed to obtain up to ten ballots for delivery to other voters, and “bearers” were permitted to return an unlimited number of completed ballots to county election boards on behalf of other voters.  The new law, which took effect immediately, reduces the number of ballots that both an authorized messenger and bearer can deliver to just three. This change in the law (you can see the previous version of the law here) represents the first time there has been any limit on the number of ballots that a bearer can deliver to county election officials.

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Should military members who did not vote in 2010 receive a ballot?

by Wesley Moore

It may sound like a simple issue, but Colorado is currently in an uproar over this issue. The City of Denver had been planning to send mail ballots to all registered voters, including inactive military voters. In response, Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler made the controversial move of filing suit against the city, arguing that Colorado law only allows localities to mail ballots to those on the active voting list. The full complaint can be found here. Because the election is mere weeks away, John Tomasic of The Colorado Independent notes that this new directive seems likely to effectively disenfranchise the effected soldiers.

Colorado law requires ballots to be sent out to all active registered voters, but it does not explicitly prohibit county clerks from being more proactive. According to The Daily Sentinel, Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner argued that counties should be able to do more if they wish. “I had made a decision early on not to include the inactive voters because it wasn’t required,” Reiner said. “But I have to agree with the Denver County clerk and recorder that the statute requirements are only a minimum, and in many areas clerks often go over and above depending on the needs of their counties.” Continue reading

Colorado’s super-secret ballots

by Wesley Moore

Colorado is currently in the midst of a heated legal dispute over whether images of local ballots should be made available for public scrutiny in an election dispute. The controversy started in 2009, when Marilyn Marks lost the Aspen city mayoral election to Mick Ireland. Marks petitioned to view images of the anonymous ballots (sometimes referred to as TIFF files), but the city denied her request.

She then filed suit in state court under the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA), but the district court ruled against her. She appealed to the Colorado Court of Appeals, which reversed the lower court in September of this year, holding that the contents of the ballots should be released. Continue reading

The Show Must Go On: Despite Sharp Budget Cuts, the Virginia State Board of Elections makes sure “Elections still go on.”

In the present economic climate, no state agency in the country is completely immune from budget crunches. The Virginia State Board of Elections (SBE), Virginia’s non-partisan agency in charge of administering the state’s elections, is no different. Budget cuts have forced the agency to make some tradeoffs in recent years, in both staffing and services. However, the agency is finding ways to cope with the limitations and continues to work to make elections work smoothly, regardless of the economic circumstances.

“I refuse to cry the blues,” SBE Secretary Nancy Rodrigues said. “The reality is there is no money. That is the economy. [However], elections still go on.” Continue reading

Weekly Wrap Up

Emanuel got the green light for candidacy: Rahm Emanuel can run for Chicago mayor, after a unanimous decision by the Illinois Supreme Court. The Court found that he meets the residency requirements because he paid taxes and maintained a residence he planned to use as his permanent residence–even though he rented it out–in Chicago while working in the White House.

Every vote counts in Ohio: A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on January 27 that ballots improperly cast because of errors by poll workers must be counted in the judicial election in Hamilton County. Although the exact number of ballots that must now be counted is unknown, Democrats claim it could be in the hundreds. Republican John Williams currently leads by 23 votes.

Is there a fight brewing over Fair Districts in Florida?: In one of his first acts as governor, Rick Scott withdrew the request to the Justice Department to approve the redistricting amendments passed by voters in November. The amendments are also currently being challenged in court in a lawsuit filed by two U.S. Representatives from Florida.

One Stop Shopping: Rhode Island Initiative Registers Voters at Work

The Newport Mansions, Family Guy, Brown University and the Farrelly brothers are a few of the Ocean State’s more notable features.  To this list, we may soon add “Innovative Voter Registration.”  Rhode Island Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis launched “Voters in the Workplace” in the summer of 2008.  This initiative encourages and enables companies to host voter registration drives during normal business hours between August and October every year.  These months include the registration deadlines for both the state primary and general elections.  The Secretary of State’s office markets the program through social media and direct mail while working with Rhode Island’s chamber of commerce network and trade organizations for human resources managers.

So how does it work? A company contacts the Secretary of State’s office and expresses interest in hosting a voter registration drive for its employees.  In the weeks leading up to the drive the company generally sends out e-mails notifying its workers, posts links to registration forms on their intranet, and displays voter registration posters.  The Secretary of State’s Office supplies the company with all of these materials electronically, even the e-mail template.  Some companies do more: Cox Communications in West Warwick ran promotions on its closed-circuit television network.  On the day of the drive, staff members from the Secretary of State’s office travel to the company and conduct the voter registration.  A drive is usually held in the cafeteria or another gathering space in the workplace during regularly scheduled breaks, lunch, or directly after work.  Staff time spent on a typical registration, including travel, is about two hours.  Chris Barnett of the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s press office indicated there is no discrete budget for the program and “the investment is simply routine overhead.”  Dozens of companies have partnered with the Secretary of State’s office since the program began two years ago. Continue reading

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