State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Tag: Disenfranchise (page 1 of 2)

Wisconsin: After Frank v. Walker

Wisconsin: after Frank v. Walker, a new case — One Wisconsin Institute v. Nichol — was filed on May 29th, 2015 to challenge Wisconsin’s election laws again.

By: Lisa Zhang

In a recent complaint filed by One Wisconsin Institute, Citizen Action of Wisconsin Education Fund, and six Wisconsin residents, plaintiffs challenged several Wisconsin voting provisions, including 2011 Wisconsin Act 23. I previously discussed the Equal Protection challenges made in this case in an earlier post. Below is an analysis of the case’s challenge under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA).

Continue reading

Alaska Natives Afforded Voting Rights

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was one of the single greatest accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.  The act bans racial discrimination in voting practices by all levels of government, and was enacted with the specific purpose of enfranchising millions of African-Americans in the South and Latinos in the Southwest, as well as those who had been shut out of the voting process because of their lack of English fluency.  Due to its overwhelming success,  the Voting Rights Act is often considered the “most effective civil rights law ever enacted.” Although a major component of the Voting Rights Act was held to be unconstitutional in the case Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, some states are still experiencing the benefits the Voting Rights Act was meant to provide.

Continue reading

Deciphering Felony Disenfranchisement in Post-Realignment California

In August of 2015, California restored the voting rights to approximately 60,000 former felony offenders who had been improperly disenfranchised as a result of a glitch in the political process. In the whirlwind of California’s recent prison reform acts, these citizens had been inappropriately classified as ineligible to vote in violation of California’s Constitution and election laws. Although the case had already been decided in the voters’ favor by a trial court, it was not until California’s current Secretary of State, Alex Padilla, decided this summer to drop the appeal that these former felony offenders could feel safe registering to vote. But how did such a large number of potential voters end improperly disenfranchised in the first place?

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

VA: Governor Removes Court Fines and Fees as Barrier to Voting Rights Restoration

On June 23, 2015, Governor Terry McAuliffe announced changes to the restoration of voting rights process for Virginians with prior felony convictions. The Governor announced that Virginians with prior felony convictions will no longer have to pay their court fees, fines, and restitution as a condition of voting rights restoration eligibility.

Prior to this announcement, applicants had to complete their sentence and pay all court fees, fines, and restitution before being considered for voting rights restoration. Now, the only requirement for individuals to apply to regain their right to vote is completion of sentence (including probation/parole).  Importantly, the Governor’s announcement does not absolve individuals of the requirement that they pay outstanding fines and fees. It simply removes payment of such fees as a barrier to eligibility to vote. In announcing the new policy, the Governor likened conditioning voting on payment of a fee to payment of a poll tax. Explained the Governor, “These men and women will still be required to pay their costs and fees, but their court debts will no longer serve as a financial barrier to voting, just as poll taxes did for so many years in Virginia.”

The Governor also announced a second reform. Going forward Virginians with prior felony convictions who have had their rights restored will now have the option to include a notation in their criminal record designating that their political rights have been restored.

Mark Listes, Director of Revive My Vote and a rising 3L at William & Mary Law School, commented on the announcement. Listes noted, “The Governor has removed a significant impediment for many Virginians who would otherwise be eligible to restore their voting rights. Furthermore, the Governor has removed a lot of red tape for those who have paid their fees but may not have saved receipts proving they have done so.” Listes continued, “Revive My Vote stands ready to help Virginians navigate the application process under this new policy. I encourage anyone who has questions or would like to start their application to call our toll-free hotline at 844-WE2-VOTE (932-8683). We stand ready to help.” Revive My Vote is a civil rights organization that works primarily in Virginia and helps people with prior felony convictions restore their right to vote.

Voter identification laws in New Hampshire: continuing the national debate


In September 2011, New Hampshire state senators failed to override the gubernatorial veto of Senate Bill No. 129, which would have imposed identification requirements on New Hampshire voters. More specifically, the Bill would have required voters to present a valid voter identification (as specified in the Bill) on Election Day before being able to cast their ballots. For those voters without valid IDs on Election Day, the Bill granted them the ability to vote using a provisional ballot with the requirement that the voter show his or her official ID two-and-a-half days later. According to one source, the proposed law would have been “one of the most regressive voter photo ID laws in the nation,” and Governor John Lynch (D) claimed that the Bill would “create a real risk that voters would be denied their right to vote.” To support his veto, Gov. Lynch pointed to the positive state of elections in New Hampshire, specifically high voter turnout, the absence of fraud issues, and strong election laws, and he relied upon those reasons – among others – to justify not needing a strict voter identification law in New Hampshire.   Continue reading

SC (voter id): “We do not have a constitutional right to buy Sudafed or be a frequent flier; we do have a constitutional right to vote.”

by Sheila Dugan

On May 11, 2011, the South Carolina General Assembly passed Act R54.  The new law would require individuals to present photo identification to vote. Governor Nikki Haley signed the bill a week later. The Department of Justice has yet to pre-clear the new law, stating that it needs proof from South Carolina that Act R54 would not disenfranchise voters. Valid forms of identification include a South Carolina driver’s license, a passport, military identification, a voter registration card with a photograph, or another form of photographic identification from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Chris Whitmire, Director of Public Relations and Training at the South Carolina State Election Commission (SCSEC), spoke to me about the preparations taking place if the law is pre-cleared. These preparations include training county election officials, notifying registered voters without proper identification through direct mail, and a social media campaign about the new law. The General Assembly allocated $535,000 to the SCSEC for the voter education campaign and the creation of new voter registration cards that contain a photograph of the voter.

Registered voters would be able to obtain the new voter registration cards with the same documents they now use to register to vote (these include a photo ID or documents like a utility bill or pay stub with their address printed on it.) This makes the new identification easier to obtain than other government-issued forms of identification.  Another unique feature of the new card is that it will not expire. Continue reading

Maryland & Indiana: A robocall showdown

How different states are handling political robocall controversies.

by Ashley Ward

What thought comes to mind upon hearing the word “Robocall”? For most, the thought conjures ideas of annoying telemarketing. However, for Democrats in the Baltimore and Prince George’s Counties, robocalls received on the 2010 election night added new thoughts to the definition: voter confusion and suppression. Before the polls closed for the 2010 Gubernatorial Race, residents received a call from an unnamed woman who said: “I’m calling to let everyone know that Governor O’Malley and President Obama have been successful. Our goals have been met…The only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight. Congratulations and thank you.” Listen Here

The message seemed to imply that the Democratic candidate had already won the election and therefore the residents’ vote would be excessive and not needed. This implication was ill-gotten because there was no way to know at that time which candidate won. Many confused and upset residents contacted Gov. O’ Malley’s campaign center to complain.  Further investigation proved that the governor and his team had nothing to do with the calls. In fact, investigators determined that the members of the Republican candidate, former Gov. Eurlich’s team were responsible for the calls that have been considered by many to be a tactic to discourage the African American vote.
Continue reading

The Nightmares from Bridgeport

As the November election entered the early afternoon, poll workers in the City of Bridgeport, Connecticut began to notice something strange.  With many hours of voting left, there was an unusually small amount of ballots remaining. Those concerns quickly turned to nightmares as precincts all across the city ran out of ballots. Confusion and tempers grew as fast as the lines voters were forced to stand in.  People began to turn away without voting, their civic duty inaccessible.

Registrars were told by the Secretary of State to photo copy ballots at the city print shop.  They began delivering the needy precincts packets of 100 ballots at a time. People who waited were given the opportunity to vote on a photocopied ballot. The State’s Democratic Party sued the City for not providing enough ballots and asked for immediate action. Superior Court Judge Marshall K. Berger, Jr. made the ruling that the polls at 12 precincts would remain open until 10PM, two hours beyond the normal closing. During this extra time about 500 votes were cast. 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.

Older posts

© 2017 State of Elections

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑