State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Tag: Democrats

California’s New Motor Voter Law Benefits the Young, Not Undocumented Immigrants

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed legislation that will allow for automated voter registration at the DMV for citizens obtaining or renewing a driver’s license or state ID. The law is being referred to as the New Motor Voter Act. California lawmakers are attempting to combat historically low voter turnout rates in the state by removing barriers to registration. The law will go into effect on the first of 2016, but it may not be immediately implementable. The goal is to have the system functional by the June 2016 primaries.

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Conflicted Court Likely to Reverse 4th Circuit in Maryland Redistricting Case

By: Hayley Steffen

The stakes were high at oral argument for Shapiro v. McManus on November 4, 2015. Justice Breyer said Shapiro and his co-plaintiffs “want[ed] to raise about as important a question as you can imagine . . . And if they [were] right, that would affect congressional districts and legislative districts throughout the nation.” It was clear that the justices struggled with the serious implications that their decision could have for future redistricting and partisan gerrymandering cases.

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Trying to Stop Drive-By-Voting in New Hampshire

By: C. Rose Moore

Round two of the “drive-by voting” battle in New Hampshire ended on September 16th, 2015 when the New Hampshire Senate failed to override Governor Maggie Hassan’s veto of Senate Bill 179.  That proposal would have required potential voters to be domiciled in the state for at least thirty days prior to an election.  This was the second initiative purportedly aimed at combatting this type of fraud, which can be illustrated by the actions of Vice-President Joe Biden’s niece.  While “she didn’t break the letter of the law… many people think she violated the spirit of it” by voting in the 2012 elections in New Hampshire after only working on the campaign there for a short time.

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Bloated Voter Registration Rolls in Colorado Counties Could Support Implementation of Stricter Voting Requirements

By: Eric Speer

In late August 2015, the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving election integrity, found that 10 counties in Colorado have over-inflated voter rolls. Pitkin, Mineral, Hinsdale, San Juan, Ouray, Summit, Dolores, San Miguel, Cheyenne and Boulder Counties were found to have more voters registered than people eligible to vote. This over inflation violates the National Voter Registration Act, which requires “states to keep voter registration lists accurate and current, such as identifying persons who have become ineligible due to having died or moved outside the jurisdiction.”

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Massachusetts Rules against Ban on Lying in Campaigns

By: David Schlosser

Over the summer of 2015, a Massachusetts law banning lying in campaign ads was struck down by that state’s highest court. This decision mirrors that of an Ohio federal judge last year, a case previously covered on this blog by Sarah Wiley. Like the Ohio law, the Massachusetts law criminalized telling lies about candidates for political office, and was as on the books for several decades before being successfully challenged in court. The lawsuit arose when a Democratic state representative alleged that a right-leaning PAC lied in a campaign brochure. The brochure in question alleged that Rep. Brian Mannal sponsored a bill that would “help convicted sex offenders” because he—as a defense attorney who had represented sex offenders in the past—stood to profit. Mannal maintained that he never provided legal representation to sex offenders. One of the bills in question would make GPS tracking devices optional for sex offenders on parole, rather than mandatory. After filing the bill in 2013, Mannal reported that he received death threats.

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OK: Independents, Welcome to the Democratic Primaries

By: Ajinur Setiwaldi

The Oklahoma Democratic Party is making history this year by opening up their primaries to independent voters. Delegates at the state convention approved (314-147) the change in July 2015 and expect independent voters to participate in the party’s presidential primaries in March 2016. Registered independents will also be able to participate in democratic primaries for all state and local elections.

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Underlying Partisan Bickering in Harris: The Role of the Independent Commission in Arizona’s Current Redistricting Battle

By: Will Cooke

Several legislative districts in Arizona are potentially in flux as the Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments in Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. Rooted in the ongoing debate about the permissible degree of population deviation in state districts, the plaintiffs in the case focus their argument on the strong correlation between political ideology and the population of a district. As the graph below demonstrates, eleven of the thirteen Democrat-leaning legislative districts in the state contain total populations below the “ideal district size” (or the size of a district if drawn with perfect uniformity of population).

Arizona Districts

Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, 993 F. Supp. 2d, 1094 (D. Ariz. 2014)

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Lee v. Virginia Board of Elections: Wait, Virginians have to present a photo ID to vote?

By: Melissa Ryan

In 2013, Republican majorities in both houses of the Virginia General Assembly enacted a “voter ID law” that significantly restricts accepted forms of identification that voters must present before casting a ballot on Election Day. Now, officers at the election booths will require voters to present one of the following forms of photo identification: (1) a valid Virginia driver’s license; (2) a valid United States passport; (3) any photo identification issued by the Commonwealth, one of its political subdivisions, or the United States; (4) a valid student identification card containing a photograph of the voter and issued by any institution of higher education located in the Commonwealth; or (5) a valid employee identification card containing a photograph of the voter and issued by an employer of the voter in the ordinary course of the employer’s business. Any voter that is unable to present an acceptable form of photo identification at the polls will be offered a provisional ballot, but the voter must deliver a copy of a proper form of identification to the electoral board by noon of the third day after the election. Provisional voters may submit copies by fax, e-mail, in-person submission, timely United States Postal Service, or commercial mail delivery.

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Wisconsin Government Accountability Board

 By: Dan Sinclair

In 2008, in the wake of a legislative caucus scandal and partisan rulings by the state’s Elections Board, Wisconsin announced the formation of a new non-partisan ethics and elections agency. The Government Accountability Board (GAB), formed from the merger of the Elections Board and Wisconsin’s Ethics Board, was intended to provide an independent body capable of investigating criminal and civil violations of the state’s ethics and election laws free from the partisan and financial pitfalls that wracked its predecessors.

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When States Gerrymander, Everyone Loses: The Fight Over Florida’s Fifth Congressional District

FloridaFlorida’s Fifth Congressional District is quite a sight to behold. Beginning in Jacksonville, it runs south all the way to the outer edges of Orlando, also managing to scoop up part of Gainesville on the way. The District twists and turns, becoming very narrow and then very wide, so that one must wonder, what could be the motivation behind such an oddly shaped district? Unsurprisingly, the answer is gerrymandering. Unfortunately, the 5th District is an example of gerrymandering at its worst but there is hope. The shape of the 5th District may be changing very soon, but, in the meantime, nobody in either major political party will likely be happy with the district and average citizens are hurting when their community interests are not fairly represented.

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