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Tag: Battleground 2012

The Battleground 2012: Can Colorado Keep a (Ballot) Secret? After Citizen Center v. Gessler, It’s Not Required To Do So

by Caitlin Cater

Barcodes are a ubiquitous feature of modern life. They appear on everything from retail products and advertisements to patient forms at the doctor’s office. But perhaps one place a person might not expect to find a barcode is on an election ballot—especially when that barcode can be used to link an individual ballot with the voter who cast it. The notion seems at odds with our venerated tradition of the “secret” ballot. Indeed, that is what the plaintiffs argued in Citizen Center v. Gessler, a recent case before the United States District Court in Colorado.

On February 13, Citizen Center, a nonpartisan group of Colorado voters, filed a complaint challenging the constitutionality of election policies and procedures in six Colorado counties. Specifically, Citizen Center alleged that the defendant counties’ election ballots each contain a unique identifying mark that allows a voted ballot to be traced to its specific voter. Citizen Center further alleged that use of these ballots unconstitutionally infringes upon citizens’ fundamental right to vote, as well as their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.   Continue reading

The Battleground 2012: Whose [Presidential Ballot] Line Is It Anyway?

by Grant McLoughlin

The new national party Americans Elect was able to achieve ballot access in Oklahoma for the 2012 presidential election even though its bid to put a national third party presidential candidate on the ballot in all fifty states fizzled. Oklahoma has one of the strictest ballot access laws in the nation. Title 26 § 1-108 requires new parties seeking ballot access to submit petitions of registered voters equal to 5 percent of the total votes cast in the most recent general election. This creates a significant barrier for new parties wishing to stand for election in Oklahoma. In 2008 Oklahoma only had two choices, Democratic and Republican candidates. By having more choices voters are able to vote for candidates that best reflect their views.

This year the party Americans Elect was able to qualify in all states due in large part to well financed organization. The problem in Oklahoma, as in other states, is that Americans Elect failed to nominate a candidate for its hard-won slot as a third party on the ballot. As 2012 progressed and no candidate emerged, states began to wonder who would appear on the Americans Elect line on the ballot. Continue reading

The Battleground 2012: Armed with More than a Vote: Guns in Polling Places in Virginia

by Scott Van Der Hyde

Virginia is widely acknowledged as a state that strongly supports the rights of citizens to own and carry guns.  A number of recent laws demonstrate this support by allowing Virginians to open-carry guns in most public places.  These new laws are likely to lead to a greater number of people carrying guns openly in public.  Now that Election Day is drawing near, the question naturally arises: should it be legal to open-carry at Virginia polling places on Election Day.

The issue of open-carry in polling places has come up a few times in recent elections in Virginia and elsewhere.  One specific instance in Virginia occurred in 2011 when an election officer attempted to carry a handgun on his hip at the polling place. The   chief officer at the polling station told the election officer that he could not remain at the polling place while he was wearing his handgun.  The election office informed the chief officer that he was not violating any laws by having his gun at the polling station, but he was still not allowed to remain at the polling station with the handgun.  According to the election officer, the chief officer was concerned about the handgun making people inside the polling station uncomfortable. Continue reading

The Battleground 2012: The Public Financing of Judicial Candidates in North Carolina after Arizona Free Enterprise v. Bennett

by Justin Moore

In 2002, North Carolina passed the Judicial Campaign Reform Act (JCRA). A major part of this law created a system for the public financing of all statewide judicial races in North Carolina. The fund is paid for by a combination of state bar licensing fees and a voluntary income tax check off. By agreeing to very low “qualifying contribution limits” from donors (generally $500 per person and about $80,000 overall), statewide judicial candidates can qualify for public funds. If they raise around $40,000 from 350 or more North Carolina residents between the filing deadline and the primary election, they receive about $165,000 to $240,000 (depending on the office sought) in campaign funds from the state. If an opponent or opposition groups spends more than the amount given by the fund, candidates are entitled to receive rescue funds of up to double the amount they initially received. The availability of these “rescue funds” most notably played a pivotal role in assisting the current Chief Justice Sarah Parker win her 2006 re-election campaign against a challenger who did not take public financing. Continue reading

The Battleground 2012: ID Required to Vote! No Scratch That, Not Until Next Year

by Jenna Poligo

On October 2, 2012 Judge Robert Simpson issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the enforcement of Pennsylvania’s photo identification requirement for the upcoming election.  Judge Simpson, however, required the state to continue its 5 million dollar voter education program.  In addition, the injunction does not bar the state from requiring poll workers to request identification prior to voters casting a vote.  The injunction merely prohibits the state from preventing registered voters from voting if they fail to produce identification when asked on Election Day.

The continuation of the voter education program combined with the ability to ask voters to produce identification prior to voting runs the risk of creating serious confusion among voters.  In addition, the continued message to voters that valid identification is necessary to vote may deter many would-be voters from participating in this election.   Continue reading

The Battleground 2012: A Conversation with Former Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner

by Allison Handler

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on October 8, 2012.

Jennifer Brunner was elected in 2006 and served a term as Ohio’s first female Secretary of State. During that time, she oversaw the contentious 2008 presidential election and implemented voting practices that allowed a record turnout of voters to cast their ballots. In 2010, she ran in the primary election for the United States Senate. She currently practices law in Columbus and is the author of a new book, “Cupcakes and Courage”. Continue reading

The Battleground 2012: Who Gets to Vote When? Ohio Election Rules Have a Smaller Effect at the Local Level

by Elizabeth Herron

In a swing state like Ohio, who gets to vote and when is critical. This is evidenced by the recent controversy in the state about early voting restrictions. The disagreement has two main issues – special accommodations for members of the military, and the elimination of early voting three days before Election Day. These two issues are connected, as members of the military and civilians overseas would technically have been allowed to vote during the three day period United States-based Ohioans would be barred from early voting.

Proponents of the early voting restrictions claim that they are necessary in order to provide election officials time to update voting records and prevent voter fraud.  Opponents argue that they are arbitrary and disproportionately affect low-income and minority voters. This issue caught national media attention when the Obama and Romney campaigns took oppositional positions on the matter. An Ohio District Court judge found the restrictions a violation of the equal protection clause. Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine quickly announced his decision to appeal the matter to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which sided with the lower court. The Supreme Court declined to block early voting. This issue has ended for now, though others press on. Continue reading

The Battleground 2012: Uncapped in Missouri: Missouri’s “Lax” Campaign Finance Laws Generate Concerns of Fraud and Corruption

As the November Congressional and Presidential elections are just around the corner, Missouri, a key swing state, has come under the microscope for the state’s campaign finance laws, or lack thereof.  In 2010, Missouri passed Senate Bill 844 to establish campaign finance restrictions on donations in state and congressional races.  The law required that an officeholder/candidate report contributions over $500 within 48 hours of receipt and restricted campaign finance committees from contributing money to another committee.  However, the Missouri Supreme Court overturned the law in February of this year, holding the statute violated a section of the state’s constitution “prohibiting legislators from amending a bill to change its original purpose.”  Senate Bill 844 was initially proposed to address administrative contracting issues in statewide elections, but several amendments were added to address looming campaign finance concerns.  This decision has left Missouri campaign donations relatively unchecked and the State’s campaign ethics laws “the most lax in the country.” Continue reading

The Battleground 2012: Introduction

by Jacob Derr & Tony Glosson

During the next two days we’ll be posting a special series of entries under the banner “The Battleground 2012.”

Over the past decade, every major presidential campaign and many state campaigns have litigated state election law as a part of their races. Candidates spend money, time, and human capital fighting in courtrooms in states across the nation, especially if the vote looks close. This is not merely a luxury, but an election strategy itself.

We’ll be taking a look at some of the fights going on in several states considered “battlegrounds” this election cycle, where either the presidential race is close or there is a state race that is strategic to the national party. We will examine a campaign finance free-for-all in Missouri, attempts to shoehorn third party candidates onto the ballot in Oklahoma, and the aftermath and continued importance of the legal wrangling in Ohio this fall.

We hope you will enjoy this series, which aims to take us inside battles that, in an election cycle as contentious as this one, will continue in the courtroom long after election day.

Jacob Derr & Tony Glosson are the editors of the State of Elections blog. Continue reading

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