State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Tag: Circuit Courts

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.

Weekly Wrap Up

“I want to be your second (or third) choice!”: Jean Quan, Oakland’s mayor-elect, won under the city’s new ranked-choice system by concentrating on being voters’ second and third choice, if they were voting for someone else. The campaign manager for Don Pereta, the heavy favorite in the race, said Quan was “gaming the system” by asking people who supported other candidates to rank her second or third.

Too poor to vote: The ACLU is challenging a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals 2-1 decision that Tennessee could bar three released felons who were behind on child support or restitution from regaining their voting rights. The ACLU is asking for the court to rehear the case en banc, arguing that the decision creates an unconstitutional poll tax.

Sound it out: In the Alaska Senate race, the Division of Elections has only accepted a few of Joe Miller’s challenges to the spelling of his opponent, Lisa Murkowski’s, name on the write-in ballots.  The Director of the Division of Elections said that she was accepting minor spelling mistakes as long as she could “pronounce the name by the way it’s spelled.”

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain: The spending from outside groups in this campaign season has reached record highs, climbing almost to the $300 million mark.  Now, a new study has shown that nearly half of that money comes from groups which won’t reveal the money’s source.  A few notable candidates who used a huge amount of their personal fortunes are Meg Whitman in California and Linda McMahon in Connecticut.  They spent $140 million and $46 million respectively.

Weekly Wrap Up

Is World Wrestling Entertainment political advertising?  According to election officials in Connecticut, it is.  They have told poll workers that they can ask voters wearing WWE gear to cover it up, fearing that it could be construed as political advertising for Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon, who is also the former CEO of WWE.  Officials said that McMahon is so closely associated with WWE that the gear could easily be considered a violation of rule banning political campaigning within 75 feet of a polling station.  McMahon’s husband, Vince McMahon, said that this was a violation of WWE fans’ First Amendment rights and would deny them their right to vote.  Connecticut Republicans are also up in arms, with the State Party Chairman calling the action “voter intimidation.” This is not unprecedented, however; a similar rule was in place in California, forbidding voters from wearing “Terminator” gear when Arnold Schwarzenegger was on the ballot.

The 9th Circuit struck down part of Arizona’s voter registration laws on October 27, holding that the provisions of the law requiring proof of citizenship conflicted with the federal law. The federal law only requires that applicants “attest their citizenship under penalty of perjury”, while the 2004 voter-approved initiative in Arizona required applicants to register to vote to show proof of citizenship by providing one of the documents on the approved list. The citizenship requirement was “an additional state hurdle” to registration, something the federal law was trying to prevent. The 9th Circuit appeals panel–which included retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor–did not, however, overturn the requirement that voters show identification at the polls in order to vote. Continue reading

An Amendment for One Man? Connecticut Amends the Citizens’ Election Program

Once again the citizens of the Constitution State are questioning the actions of their politicians.  The bi-partisan ‘Clean Elections’ Act has been amended on party lines and sparked serious debate.  With the upcoming Gubernatorial Election, both parties have much at stake, and immediate changes were necessary in light of the 2nd Circuit’s ruling that a part of the act was unconstitutional.  But with the way these changes were adopted, the citizens of Connecticut are wondering if these adaptations are really just making their ‘Clean Elections’ Act dirty.

The original Citizens Election Program (“CEP”) was established under the ‘Clean Election’ Act’s passing in 2005 during a time of political turmoil in Connecticut.  Governor John Rowland’s 2004 resignation amid controversy regarding inappropriate interactions with state contractors helped to contribute to the bill’s support.  Its passage establishemaloyd public financing for all statewide races, banned contributions from contractors and lobbyists, and was widely considered to be a model system for publicly funded elections.  Currently, Connecticut is also operating a pilot program for public financing of municipal elections, which is the first of its kind among the states.  The CEP has been widely supported from both sides of the aisle in Connecticut and beyond. Continue reading

Weekly Wrap Up

A 1996 Federal Appeals Court decision is forcing DC TV stations to air “anti-abortion porn.” Missy Smith is a candidate for the DC congressional seat, though many people claim that she is simply an “anti-abortion extremist, who has found a cheap way to get some truly disgusting images onto daytime and primetime TV.” The 1996 federal appeals court decision prevents any censorship of election ads. Prior to this case, FCC Chairman Mark Fowler advised that “The no censorship prohibition in Section 315 was intended to override the statutory prohibition against the broadcast of obscene or indecent materials that is etched in Section 1464 of the Criminal Code” (cited in Gillett Communications v. Becker, 1992). Since the U.S. Supreme Court recently struck down the FCC’s “decency” regulations, freeing the airwaves for uncensored material, so it’s unlikely that Becker will be overturned soon. In the meantime, the video has been removed from YouTube because it violates its policy on “shocking and disgusting content.”

The National Organization of Marriage (NOM), a group opposing gay marriage, is trying to fund an ad in support of Carl Paladino in NY while skirting the election law requiring them to reveal their donors.  Accordingly, they have asked a federal judge to declare NY Election Law §14-100.1 unconstitutional, alleging that it chills their freedom of speech.  NOM would fall under the reporting requirement because they have the goal of “seeing the success of defeat of…political principle[s].” Continue reading

Not So Fast on the Draw: “Trigger” Funds Provisions Come Under Fire

Campaign finance reformers have spent much of 2010 fighting in the courtroom. Across the nation, campaign finance laws are being challenged in the courts.

Some decisions, like Citizens United, came down from the Supreme Court and affect every election, from the national level on down. But there have also been several court decisions across the country that changed the complexion of local and state primaries and might shape the upcoming November elections. In states as diverse as Kentucky, Washington, and California, federal courts have ruled on spending limits for both individuals and corporations. Some courts have found these limits unconstitutional by following Citizens United; others have upheld the limits, citing interests noted by the Supreme Court in their decision. Continue reading

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