State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Tag: First Amendment (page 3 of 3)

One Sentence May Fundamentally Alter Third Party Ballot Access in New Hampshire

By Sarah Graffam

A lawsuit pending before the New Hampshire Federal District Court could have serious impact on third party access to the ballot in future elections. House Bill 1542, which became law on July 22, 2014, added one sentence to RSA 655:40: “Nomination papers shall be signed and dated in the year of the election.” In a suit filed the same day, the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire, argued HB 1542 imposes onerous restrictions on third party access to the ballot which limits voter choice and stacks the deck against candidates who do not belong to a major party. 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

Alabama GOP Offers Teacher’s Union Political Rotten Apple

Alabama Republicans are back from the legislative wilderness after 136 years, and now it’s time for Dems to finally get their comeuppance—or is it simply ethics and campaign finance reform? Soon Republican Governor Bob Riley will likely sign into law several pieces of ethics reform legislation that his Republican-controlled legislature passed in last week’s special session. Senate Bill 2 amends Section 17-17-5 of Alabama Code to proscribe state employees from contributing to a political action committee or paying membership dues to any organization that uses any portion of its dues for political activity by payroll deduction or other payment.

To the chagrin of Alabama Democrats, SB 2 would disproportionately hurt public employee organizations and the Alabama Education Association, Alabama’s largest and most influential teacher’s union. According to figures from Bloomberg News, payroll deductions are a primary means for over 90 percent of Alabama teachers who wish to pay dues and support the AEA’s PAC. In the 2010 elections, AEA members’ contributions in excess of $8.6 million catapulted the teacher’s lobbying group as the state’s top spender. While SB 2 would still permit state employees to continue to use payroll deduction for any portion of membership dues not used for political activity, its certainly erects a new hurdle for AEA’s political fundraising efforts. Any Alabama Democrat mulling over a legal challenge would be wise to read the Supreme Court tealeaves by examining their decision in Ysursa v. Pocatello Education Association. In Ysursa, SCOTUS reversed the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals by upholding Idaho legislation similar to that of SB 2 that prohibited state payroll deductions for political activities.

While acknowledging the constitutional implications of the restriction, the Court ultimately recognized no affirmative right for groups to use state payroll deductions to sustain political speech or expression. In further justifying their decision, Chief Justice Roberts wrote “. . . Idaho is under no obligation to aid the unions in their political activities. And the State’s decision not to do so is not an abridgement of the unions’ speech; they are free to engage in such speech as they see fit. They simply are barred from enlisting the State in support of that endeavor.”

Furthermore, the Court cited Idaho’s interest in avoiding any appearance of combining government business and political activity. Pointing to precedent that upheld speech limitations to “avoi[d] the appearance of political favoritism,” and cases that found public confidence in government is susceptible to undermining through perception of political partiality, C.J. Roberts asserted “banning payroll deductions for political speech . . . furthers the government’s interest in distinguishing between internal governmental operations and private speech.”

Given Ysursa, any challenge by SB 2 opponents will likely be answered that the AEA has no affirmative right to gain access to potential political donors through government payroll operations. AEA donors may now easily write a personal check and even request payroll deductions for membership dues that will not go towards political activity. Questions of political motivations aside, it appears that the AEA and other Alabama organizations like it must recalibrate their operations in the face of increasing Republican capital and an ominous parallel decision from the Roberts Court.

Gregory Proseus is a second-year student at William & Mary Law School.


He was buried under a pile of stones college homework from in his philosophical garden

Weekly Wrap Up

No more automatic restoration of rights: Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet have recently attempted to change how released felon regain the right to vote. Their proposal, which the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund suggests must get preclearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, would prevent people who committed non-violent felonies from regaining the right to vote for 5 years and the 5 year clock would restart if that person were arrested during that period, even if no charges are filed. Some have called these requirements a return to Jim Crow-style voting laws.

Campaign finance again in front of the Supreme Court: As mentioned on Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in McComish v. Bennett on Monday morning. The case is a constitutional challenge to Arizona’s Clean Elections Act, which includes a trigger fund provision for publicly-funded candidates. This is one a several such cases that have been heard in federal courts in the last year; several other challenges have come out of Florida, Connecticut, and most recently Wisconsin in the ongoing judicial elections.

“Fair Districts” Amendments go to the Justice Department: Three months after Governor Rick Scott quietly withdrew the preclearance request for the “Fair Districts” amendments (Amendments 5 and 6 to the Florida constitution), the legislature has renewed the request, after reviewing the amendments and deciding they were the proper body to make the request, as opposed to the governor. This, however, will likely not end the battle over these amendments as a lawsuit to block these amendments is still pending.

She set out to win jimmy donahue and quickly essays online using did so

The End of Public Financing Trigger Provisions? A Review of McComish v. Bennett

The Supreme Court on Monday heard oral argument in a case challenging provisions of Arizona’s public financing law, which it is said burden the free speech rights of opponents who don’t receive the funds.  Under the Arizona law, publicly financed candidates receive an initial grant of money with which to conduct their campaign.  Then, if an opponent who is not publicly funded spends more than the initial grant, it “triggers” the state to match what the opponent raises up to three times the initial amount.  Given the Court’s recent hostility to campaign finance regulations which are said to burden the exercise of political speech, it seems likely that the Court will reverse the Ninth Circuit and strike down at least portions of the matching funds system.  This conclusion was reinforced by the questions at oral argument, which seemed to suggest that the Justices will again vote by a 5-4 margin to restrict the ability of the government to regulate campaign finance. This post will briefly review the background of the case and look at how such a decision could effect the twenty-two other states with public financing systems and particularly those with triggering provisions. Continue reading

Image is Everything: Is Disclosure an Effective Check on Corporate Political Donations?

In his January State of the Union address President Obama warned that the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United would result in American elections being “bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse foreign entities.” President Obama wasn’t alone in his disapproval of the Supreme Court’s decision. The Pew Center reports that a large majority—65%—of Americans also disapprove of the decision. However, the gubernatorial race in Minnesota is demonstrating that corporate donations are not completely unchecked. In fact, the biggest factor limiting a corporation’s exercise of this First Amendment right may be the First Amendment itself.

Minnesota’s upcoming gubernatorial election has become the focus of corporation’s contributions to political organizations because of a Minnesota law requiring organizations to publicly disclose contributions over $100. The law does not set any limitation on the amount of a donation, but if it is more than $100, the public and the press are going to know about it. According to two Minnesota political organizations, the disclosure requirements are unconstitutional. 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

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

Know Campaign Update

In January, we brought you a piece about the Know Campaign and the privacy of your voting history. This post is an update on the lawsuit and changes to the statute:

Here’s a quick rundown of the situation: a non-profit wants to increase voter turnout by telling neighbors who voted in which election. Studies show that it would work. Turns out, only candidates and parties can legally get access to that information (the reality is another thing…). Virginia’s State Board of Elections tells the non profit to stop and they do. Then the non-profit sues b/c the voter history list should be open to all or closed to all.

Two weeks ago the lawsuit was dismissed in the Richmond Circuit Court. According to Bill Sizemore of the Pilot, a settlement was reached, though the group promised to re-file the suit if the law wasn’t changed to allow wider access to the information.

But there’s no guarantee that the changes to the statute will include wider access to the list. A legislative subcommittee has recommended that the list be closed to everyone, according to the Times-Dispatch’s Tyler Whitely. A list closed to everyone means that even candidates wouldn’t have access to a voter’s history either.

To legislators who want to save stamps or avoid knocking on the doors of their unpersuadable neighbors – this would be a huge problem. Campaigns already cost plenty, and according to some legislators this would drive up the cost of their races.

On the flip side of candidate convenience is voter privacy. While at first blush this may sound like the fox guarding the hen house, remember there are plenty of privacy advocates in the Virginia legislature who don’t have regular, expensive races to keep their seats.

The legislative session should end soon, so we’ll have an answer about what the elected officials think on this issue. The next move will be the Know Campaign’s.

Brian Cannon is President of the William & Mary Election Law Society

The death of his daughter, as the story demonstrates, shocked him terribly?

Voter Privacy and the Know Campaign

I get tons of political mail.  Most of it I don’t read – after all, it contains little useful information.  But if someone mailed me this, it would surely catch my eye:

political-campaign-mail“Below is a partial list of your recent voting history — public information obtained from the Virginia State Board of Elections…We have sent you this information as a public service because we believe that democracy only works when you vote.”

What if this mailing also contained information about my neighbor’s voting history in order for me to encourage/shame him into voting in the upcoming election?

This is exactly what the Know Campaign in Virginia sought to do this election cycle before legal action stopped them in their tracks.  To read more about that, check out the Washington Post’s story here.  The Know Campaign’s press release that started all of the excitement is here. Continue reading

Newer posts

© 2021 State of Elections

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑