State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Tag: Florida

Flip and Flop: Federal judge lifts Michigan state law banning “Ballot Selfies,” but Sixth Circuit reverses four days later

By: Angela M. Evanowski

On October 24, 2016, famous singer and actor Justin Timberlake found himself in trouble after posting a “ballot selfie” on his two social media accounts, Twitter and Instagram. Timberlake, who is registered to vote in Tennessee, flew from California to his home voting county and posted the selfies in order to encourage millennials and fans to vote. However, to the surprise of Timberlake, the state of Tennessee earlier this year passed a law banning voters from taking photographs or videos during the voting process. Luckily, for this famous former boy-band member, he is not going to face any criminal charges or punishment for posting his ballot selfies. Continue reading

Election Law Program Pilots Three Online Platforms of State Election Codes in Colorado, Florida and Virginia

Wondering what the Virginia election code has to say about campaign volunteers and others at the polls? Want context on statutes that govern when voter registration ends in Florida? Curious about how Colorado election statutes impact voter registration lists?

In advance of next month’s election, the Election Law Program, a joint project of William & Mary Law School and the National Center for State Courts, is piloting three online platforms of state election codes in Colorado, Florida and Virginia. Teams of election experts have annotated their state’s election code to give context for how the law operates in these states. In addition, case law, regulations, advisory opinions, and administrative guidance are linked to relevant statutes to provide a full picture of how election codes in Colorado, Florida, and Virginia function.

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Crafting Competitive Criteria: The Institution is Critical

By: Benjamin Williams

With the rapid increase in political polarization in recent years, momentum is building in several states to dramatically alter the redistricting process after the 2020 Census. True to the idea of the states being laboratories of democracy, there have been state constitutional amendments in Florida, partisan gerrymandering challenges in Wisconsin, Maryland, and North Carolina, redistricting criteria bills in Virginia, as well as a myriad of racial gerrymandering challenges. But the new idea—based on a blend of Iowa-style and Florida-style redistricting—is to create stringent criteria for legislatures to follow. That idea is simple enough: if the redistricting body (legislature, independent redistricting commission, college students, etc.) is forced to follow strict criteria when redistricting, the result will be “better” districts that aren’t ugly and are more competitive. But does the data actually bear this out?

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The Fantasy of the Hispanic Voting Bloc in Florida and Its Implications on Redistricting

All across the country for the last few years, whenever politicians or the media talk about minority groups, they talk about the “Hispanic Vote,” lumping all Hispanic voters into a single group. But this statement is problematic for the United States, particularly in a state like Florida, in the context of redistricting, because Hispanic voters are not like other minority voters. Unlike black voters, Hispanic citizens, despite their shared language, are not one single homogenous block of voters. They come from different countries, have different cultures, and identify as different races. In fact, certain groups of Hispanics from some countries share strong animosity against groups of Hispanics from other countries. These differences, reflected in some Hispanic voting patterns, make it difficult for state legislatures to comply with the Voting Right Act when drawing district lines, but it can make it even more difficult for Hispanic plaintiffs to challenge districts because of the case law enunciated in Thornburg v. Gingles (1986). Gingles requires that a plaintiff challenging a state for violating §2 of the Voting Rights Act must prove that a minority is sufficiently large, politically cohesive, and that the majority votes as a block against the minority to prove vote dilution.

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Compactness and Political Considerations in Virginia General Assembly Districts

By: Emily Wagman

On September 14th, fourteen plaintiffs represented by DurretteCrump PLC filed suit in the Circuit Court for the City of Richmond against the Virginia State Board of Elections, alleging that their respective House of Delegates and State Senate districts are not compact. Compactness is one of the Virginia Constitution’s three redistricting criteria. Along with compactness, the Voting Rights Act (VRA) requirements, and the “one person, one vote” requirement, districts must be contiguous and as close to equal in population as possible. Contiguity and equal population are relatively easy to determine, by looking at the proposed maps and the population data, respectively, compactness is more complicated.

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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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Orlando’s redistricting advisory board may not please everyone

According to the 2010 census, the population of Orlando, FL has increased significantly over the past ten years, jumping from 185,951 in 2000 to a whopping 238,916 in 2010. This change in population has not occurred evenly over the city’s six districts, and new districts must be drawn as a remedy. This process is called redistricting.

Redistricting seeks to equalize representation in malapportioned districts. In Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Sims, two landmark United States Supreme Court decisions, the idea of equal representation came about through the notion of one person, one vote: “Whatever the means of accomplishment, the overriding objective must be substantial equality of population among the various districts, so that the vote of any citizen is approximately equal in weight to that of any other citizen in the State.”

In order to achieve a more even and representative portrait of Orlando, the Orlando City Council appointed a nine member board to handle the task of redistricting. In coming up with a proposed plan, the Redistricting Advisory Board also sought and received the input of many other Orlando citizens.

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FL (primaries): Florida’s James Dean moment

by Joe Figueroa

In his magnum opus role as Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause, James Dean portrays a frustrated teenager who is fed up with his bickering parents and causes all sorts of commotion by acting out against all sorts of authority figures.

James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause

The Sunshine State can relate.

The G.O.P. establishment has quickly portrayed Florida as the disobedient child after its Legislature decided to move the Presidential Primary date up to January 31st, throwing off the party’s planned schedule and forcing the big four primary states at the beginning of the cycle-Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina to move their primaries and caucuses into January as well.

With this move, Florida is flying in the face of a parental grounding of sorts.  The Republican National Committee has promised to strip the state of half of its delegates at the National Convention next summer (being held in-you guessed it-Tampa), as well as threaten to move the delegation to the back of the Convention Center and away from the cameras.

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