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Distance as Discrimination: Native Voting Rights in Rural Montana Litigated in Wandering Medicine v. McCulloch

By: Cameron Boster

History of the Dispute

The seven Indian reservations that intersect with Montana’s massive counties face significant problems, including poverty, domestic violence, and obstacles to education. Native electoral representation, a tool essential for fixing these issues, is threatened by the thinly populated, hundred-mile distances between remote towns that stretch on bad roads through wild terrain.

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William & Mary Law School to Host 9th Annual Election Law Symposium

By The William & Mary Election Law Society

WILLIAMSBURG, VA – The Election Law Society and the Election Law Program at William & Mary Law School announce the Ninth Annual Election Law Symposium, which will take place on Thursday, February 26. Featuring prominent election attorneys, voting rights advocates, and a former Texas Solicitor General, the symposium addresses the topic “Pre-election Litigation: Judicial Influence Before Election Day” and evaluates the current state of pre-election litigation and the challenges courts face when hearing election litigation prior to an election. Continue reading

Symposium Report: Conclusions of the “Party Planning” work group with Sec. Scott Gessler and Fairfax County Registrar Cameron Quinn

by Emily Lippolis, Special Contributor

The biggest problem facing Virginia registrars is a lack of resources. They are understaffed, overworked, and last-minute legislative acts (like mandating ballots in Spanish) mean that they are often burdened with unforeseen changes right before Election Day. Poll workers are well-trained but most experience their first real day of work on Election Day. There is usually not enough money to create data for election statistics at individual precincts. Furthermore, each precinct is different and has their own set of needs.

All of this led our working group on Election Day “party planning” to conclude that what registrars need most are business management-like resources, and not broad solutions to haphazardly apply to every precinct. Most large businesses track their resources so that they can determine how different processes and investments lead to different outcomes. Many large companies, like Walt Disney World and UPS, have already done the research necessary to mitigate many of the issues that create delays at the polls. Some states have already solved the problems facing other states, and just need a medium to communicate their solutions with the rest of the country. If election officials had the same resources used by big businesses to create maximum efficiency  and customer satisfaction, then elections would run a lot more smoothly in Virginia. Continue reading

Symposium Report: Scholars, Officials, and Students Discuss Election Flexibility as a Solution to 2013 Election Delays

by Shanna Reulbach, Special Contributor

The William & Mary Election Law Society hosted a symposium searching for solutions to the delays that occurred on Election Day 2012—those that President Obama directed national attention to during his acceptance speech that night.  The symposium began with small-group sessions that brought scholars, elections officials, and students together to discuss the issues.  I was part of the group focusing on election flexibility options, and had the honor of talking with Dr. John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center and two outstanding Virginia general registrars, Barbra Gunter and Donna Patterson.

The group focused first on two of the “hottest” ideas for voter flexibility: early voting and absentee voting.  Currently, Virginia offers mail-in absentee ballots to voters who are able to select one of a number of excuses for not being present in their precinct on Election Day.  Virginia’s system of in-person absentee voting, which other states may call early voting, also requires an excuse.  Ms. Gunter and Ms. Patterson related that Virginia voters passing through their offices express support of  having more options for early voting through either method.  The registrars agreed that more options for early voting would reduce delays on Election Day because people would likely take advantage of those options, meaning less people coming to the polls on that Tuesday in November.  Continue reading

Symposium Report: Voting tech from the front lines

by Andrew McCoy, Special Contributor

On February 21 the William and Mary Election Law Society held its annual Symposium with a focus on election day delays.  During the symposium three panel discussions were held, and I had the pleasure of being present in the Voting Technology panel.  This discussion was facilitated by Paul Herrnson and included three William and Mary Law students, two Virginia Registrars: Kirk Showalter and Greg R, and a Member of an Electoral Board: Al Ablowich.  We were meant to look at voting technology problems, their impact on voting day delays, and potential solutions.

We were unable to note any specific solutions, partially because we could not pinpoint the impact of technological problems.  Mr. Riddlemoser stated that there were no technology related delays in his county, and Ms. Showalter noted that, absent voter or poll worker errors, there was only one technology problem in her county and the resulting delay cleared by mid-morning.  Mr. Ablowich did note some technology problems on election day, but these were related to the age of the machines and human error.  Based on this panel discussion it appears that reports of delays caused by voting machine failures may have mis-identified other issues with technology failures. Continue reading

Fifth Annual Election Law Symposium at William & Mary

by Christina Sumpio

The Election Law Society and the Election Law Program at William & Mary Law School announce the Fifth Annual Election Law Symposium to take place on Thursday, March 29. Featuring prominent state supreme court judges, political consultants, and scholars, the symposium centers on the topic “Money in Judicial Elections,” and evaluates the changing dynamics of state judicial elections in the post-Citizens United landscape. The event, which is free and open to the public, begins at 3:15PM and will be held in Room 124.

Panelists scheduled to participate include the Hon. Brent Benjamin, Justice on the West Virginia Supreme Court since 2005; James Bopp, Jr., General Counsel for the James Madison Center for Free Speech, former speech writer for presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and chief architect of the controversial Supreme Court case Citizens United, as well as more than 60 election-related cases; the Hon. Thomas Phillips, retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, current partner of the law firm Baker Botts, past President of the Conference of Chief Justices, and a member of the Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform; Bradley Smith, former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission, the Josiah H. Blackmore/Shirley M. Nault Professor of Law at Capital University Law School, and the Chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics; the Hon. Marsha Ternus, retired Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court whose term expired after seventeen years of service after voters failed to retain her in the controversial 2010 retention election; and the Hon. Penny White, retired Tennessee Supreme Court Justice, and current Director of the Center for Advocacy and Dispute Resolution at the University of Tennessee College of Law. Lyle Denniston, renowned legal journalist and blogger who has reported on the Supreme Court of the United States for more than fifty years, will serve as moderator. He currently writes for the SCOTUSblog, which provides coverage and analysis of the Supreme Court. Denniston has also written for the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and The American Lawyer.

“In the last decade, the massive influx of contributions by large donors, especially special interest groups, has changed the face of state judicial elections,” explained Election Law Society Co-President Anisa Somani ’13. “Our symposium draws together a panel of experts to discuss whether this radical evolution in judicial election expenditures should be regulated and whether money actually corrupts judicial independence,” noted Election Law Society Co-President Vladislava Soshkina ’13.

This annual event is possible with generous assistance from the William & Mary Institute of Bill of Rights Law and the National Center for State Courts.

Created in 2005 as a joint venture of the National Center for State Courts and the Law School, the Election Law Program seeks to provide practical assistance to state court judges in the United States who are called upon to resolve difficult election law disputes (see Program materials available at www.electionlawissues.org). The Election Law Society is the student organization created to generate interest in and educate students about this rapidly expanding and extremely important area of practice.

by Christina Sumpio

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