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The Front-Loading Problem: North Carolina Joins the Primary

By: Laura Wright

On September 24th, the North Carolina legislature passed House Bill 373 which, if signed by Governor Pat McRory, will move North Carolina’s presidential, state, and local primaries up from May to March 15th. Sponsored by Riddell (R), Whitmire (R), Brockman (D), and Iler (R), the bill passed with a 52-49 vote in the House and a 30-13 vote in the Senate.

With this move of the primary date come some other changes. The last day for candidates to submit their name to the primary ballot is December 16th. In order to get on the ballot, candidates must collect 10,000 signatures from qualified voters who are registered to the party of that candidate. These signatures must be verified at least 10 days before filing. For candidates wishing to get their name on the primary ballot, be they presidential, state-wide, or local, the clock is ticking.

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Presidential primary suspended: Why doesn’t it matter?

by Eli Mackey

Washington State’s 2012 Presidential Primary is among the recent victims sacrificed at the altar of budgetary woes. The financial problems left in this listless economy granted no immunity to matters of seemingly great civic importance. Washington State has become the first in the nation to suspend its 2012 Presidential Primary election as a result of budgetary constraints.  Instead, Washington will rely on caucuses to determine which delegates to send to the convention. The caucuses, which measure the degree of support for a given candidate from a gathering of community members to determine the proportion of delegates, will be sponsored by the Republican and Democratic parties. The move is said to save nearly ten million dollars from Washington State’s budget.

While Secretary of State, Sam Reed, notes that this is a one-time resolution in response to the 5.2 billion dollar budget gap, he indicated that the primary has more than ten times the turnout than the caucuses. For example, in 2008 the primary drew approximately 1.4 million people while the caucuses included fewer than 100,000. This may be due in part to the fact that the primary system does not exclude overseas voters. Caucuses are typically attended by individuals closely affiliated with their respective parties. As a result, the caucus forum gives party activists greater voice in a candidate’s election than the common voter might otherwise have given a primary. The GOP’s 2012 caucus will be held on March 3, while the Democrats’, with no challenge to President Obama’s renomination, will be held on April 15.

Washington voters passed an initiative establishing the primary system in 1989 reflecting the desire of ordinary people to be more engaged in the presidential electoral process. However, the delegate allocation has traditionally been left to caucus results. Even with the primary, the Democratic Party issues its delegates based on caucus results, while the Republican Party has allocated half of their delegates based on primary results with the other half on caucus results. Thus, some have rightfully pointed out that the primary system in Washington is largely symbolic as its results have only a partial impact. Given Washington State’s financial posture and the reality that the primary system has been largely ceremonial since its institution, it seems that it was a no–brainer for this legislation to be signed into law by the Democratic governor, Christine Gregoire. Continue reading

A new generation of poll workers

by Brooks C. Braun

On election day, November 8th, 2011, more than 30 students from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) worked as Officers of Election in Henrico County, VA on behalf of the Tidewater Roots Poll Project (TRPP). TRPP is a project organized by William & Mary students to inspire college students to make a commitment to civic duty and participatory democracy by becoming the next generation of Virginia poll volunteers. We sat down to talk with three of these students to hear what they had to say about their experience.

Tell us a little bit about yourselves and how you heard about TRPP.

TEREZA: My name is Tereza McInnes, I’m an international studies major at VCU and I heard about the Tidewater Roots Poll Project through a VCU e-mail. I was really interested in it because all I’ve heard is that it’s something that ‘old people do’ and I kinda wanted to see what exactly it was about. And I guess I also heard that, you know, there was money involved.

DAVID: My name is David, I’m a 28 year old full time student at VCU. I’m in my fifth year. I have a dual degree in criminal justice and psychology with a concentration in pre-physical therapy. I got an e-mail from VCU saying that they were recruiting. I get 15 to 20 e-mails a day so I just breezed through it and moved on to the next e-mail. Later, one of my other friends, Thomas Kidwell, said that he had spoken to you on campus. He mentioned the e-mail, at which point I went back to read it again. My interest was piqued so I went ahead and put my name in the pool.

GABRIELA: My name is Maria Gabriela Ochoa Perez. I’m a freshman at VCU and I’m studying communication arts. I’m 18. I was born in Venezuela and I became a citizen 2 years ago. I’m really interested in the governmental system here in America because I experienced firsthand in Venezuela what it was like under a less democratic system. I was introduced to the project by this interesting looking gentleman standing in the cold in front of the VCU commons one day. I had already tried to figuring out how to do that kind of thing; poll work. I remember having talked to my government teacher in high school about doing it. I just hadn’t yet taken the time to contact the Montgomery county registrar’s office to sign up. So I was really interested when that nice gentleman told me what TRPP was doing. I mean this is something totally different than just voting. Working at the polls puts you right in the middle of the process and enables you to learn more about it. Continue reading

NRS 304

A way to quickly replace Congressmen in the event of a terrorist attack or give Democrats a Nevada Republican stronghold?

by Kaitan Gupta

In the world of battleground elections, Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District never received much attention nor should it have.  Since its creation after the 1980 census, it has always been represented by a Republican.  1992 was the only time the Republican candidate did not receive more than 50% of the vote and yet that year Republican Congressman Vucanovich still won the election by more than 12,000 votes/4 points.  The Democrats thought they were closing the gap in the District in 2008 when Senator McCain only won the District by 88 votes, but popular Congressman Dean Heller proved too popular in this conservative District where he widened his “narrow” 12,575 vote/5 point win in 2006 to a 44,000 vote/10 point win in 2008 and a 82,000/30 point win in 2010.  But Democrats attempt at winning this District (which in the past was seen as futile) would get new life thanks to a Republican’s sex scandal, the Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller, and a Navy war hero.

In May 2011, Senator John Ensign announced his resignation due to an ethics investigation surrounding his extramarital affair with the wife of one of his aids.  Governor Sandoval promptly appointed Dean Heller to fill the rest of Senator Ensign’s term and ordered a special election to be held on September 13, 2011 to elect a new representative for Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District.  But it was Secretary of State Ross Miller’s announcement of how this special election would be run that gave Democrats a chance of winning this Republican stronghold.  One week prior to Governor Sandoval’s announcement, Secretary Miller issued his interpretation of NRS 304.200, the law governing special elections.  He announced that major party candidates could self-nominate and place themselves on the ballot as a major political party candidate whether or not the major political party approved.  Secretary Miller based this interpretation on NRS 304’s language that “no primary election may be held.”   This meant the election would be a free for all and more than 30 candidates were expected to be on the ballotDemocrats expected many Republicans would file as compared to only a few Democrats making it much easier to elect a Democrat. Continue reading

Missouri to hold “beauty contest” primary

by Lindsey Gill

With less  than a year until the 2012 general election, Americans everywhere are gearing up for primary season. With Iowa, as usual, holding the coveted number one spot, the rest of the 50 states will hold their primaries or caucuses sometime between January and June.  Because Missouri law mandates that the state hold a primary election on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in February, that sets the date for the 2012 primary as February 7th. With only a few states holding a primary or caucus earlier, Missouri’s primary has the possibility to be very influential in the Republican nomination… well, at least it would, if any of Missouri’s votes actually counted.  Instead, the state is set to spend between 6 and 8 million dollars on what Senate Majority Leader Tom Dempsey called a “beauty contest.”

The reason? A rift in the Missouri Republican Party. Nearly a decade after legislators moved Missouri’s primary to February, the Republican and Democratic National Committees instituted new primary rules mandating that all states except Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada, hold their primary no earlier than the first Tuesday of March. The Missouri Republican Party immediately began pushing state legislators to change the date of the primary in order to accord with the new rules. Holding the largest Republican majority in state history, one would think that the state legislature would pass an amendment to the primary law with little opposition. Indeed, that appeared to be the case when the legislature passed SB 282 in May of 2011, including the presidential primary provision as one of its several changes to Missouri election law.

Governor Jay Nixon, however, agreeing with the presidential primary provision, vetoed the bill for other reasons. With the national party threatening to sanction any state that did not adhere to the new primary rules by seating only half their delegates, Missouri legislators tried again during special session, limiting HB 3 specifically to the issue of changing the primary date. After barreling through the House, the bill stalled in the Senate as the Republican majority could not decide whether to submit to the national party rules. Continue reading

NY (redistricting): New York on the clock to redistrict

by Alex Custin

New York faces a few interesting challenges in this round of redistricting. First, a law passed last year now requires inmates to be counted in the district they’re from rather than where they’re imprisoned. Second, New York is losing two congressional districts. Third, the governor has threatened to veto any redistricting plan that’s a political gerrymander. Finally, the requirement that military absentee ballots be sent out 45 days before the election means that New York has to hold its primaries earlier than usual, and the district lines have to be determined before then. The combination of these challenges means that New York has to redraw more district lines than it otherwise would and that it has to get its act together soon in order to have a plan in time.

The first challenge will affect both districts where prisons are located and districts from which the inmates came. Since population is the usual number used in order to draw district lines, districts with prisons will have to increase in size to remain equally populated and the districts that produce large numbers of inmates will have to shrink. Continue reading

Weekly Wrap Up


Supreme Court throws out voting machine judgment: The Supreme Court decided this week to throw out a suit against Dallas County over its use of iVotronic voting machines. The Democratic Party sued the county claiming that the confusing straight-party feature of the machines was not approved by the Justice Department. The Supreme Court considered the charge moot since the Justice Department has since approved the use of the machines.


Getting rid of the “winner-take-all” electoral system: Pennsylvania Republican Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi is looking to drop the winner-take-all method and adopt a split system for electoral voting. In the new system an electoral vote would be given to the winner of each of Pennsylvania’s 19 congressional districts with the remaining Senate votes given to the winner of the popular vote. Many PA Republicans, who lost the 2008 electoral vote, argue that a split system more accurately reflects the diversity of voters. Others have criticized the proposition stating that candidates will lose interest in the large battleground state if the vote is split.


South Carolina GOP to cover Primary Election Costs: The Republican Party in South Carolina has agreed to pay all additional costs of the primary election there. This comes after many in the state had expressed concern about covering the costs of the 2012 Republican presidential primary. Nevertheless, several counties have authorized their attorneys to use legal means to protect county interests and coffers. The Republican Party will cover “legitimate costs” over and above what the state Election Commission will reimburse counties for conducting their elections. The Democratic Party does not currently plan to conduct a primary election in South Carolina.

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Weekly Wrap Up

Facebook sued over election results: Majed Moughni,a Michigan Republican who lost in the primary in 2010, is suing Facebook, claiming that he lost the election because his Facebook page was shut down. Moughni claims his page was shut down for criticizing one of his opponent’s views, but a Facebook spokesperson said it was because of suspicious behavior. Moughni had been adding 20-100 friends per day.

Kentucky judge gets 26 years for voter fraud:former federal magistrate judge in Kentucky was sentenced to 26 years in federal prison for heading a conspiracy to control politics in Eastern Kentucky. Prosecutors say that 8,000 people were paid $50 for their vote and 150 votes were stolen from the machines.

Charlie White saga continues: The Indiana Secretary of State’s office lost two staffers this week, as the chief spokesman and the deputy secretary of state both resigned in the wake of the allegations against Charlie White. White, who is charged with seven felony counts including voter fraud, is also being investigated for abuse of power–that he improperly accessed a document shortly after taking office containing evidence against him in the voter fraud indictment.

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No Prize for Finishing Second? New Hampshire Law Change Helps Confirm “First-in-the-Nation” Primary

As the commentary of political pundits drifts beyond the subject of the 2010 midterm elections, and prospective candidates for the U.S. presidential election of 2012 begin strategizing for their impending campaigns, the legislators of New Hampshire have taken the opportunity to assert one clear priority: New Hampshire comes first!

In early 2010, New Hampshire lawmakers drafted an amendment to state election statutes inserting the following phrase into the chapter of the state code addressing the scheduling of presidential primary elections: “The purpose of this section is to protect the tradition of the New Hampshire first-in-the-nation presidential primary”. Formally known as HB 341, the amendment was signed into law earlier this summer by New Hampshire Governor John Lynch, putting national Democratic and Republican party organizers on notice as they draft their schedules for the forthcoming 2012 primary season. Continue reading

Weekly Wrap Up

Voter fraud by the Chief Election Official?: Charlie White, the Indiana Secretary of State, is being investigated by a grand jury to determine if he committed voter fraud during the May 2010 primary. White is accused of intentionally voting at the wrong precinct, a potential felony.

Misspellings can count: The Alaska Senate unanimously passed a bill on February 14 clarifying procedures for counting write-in ballots. The bill, a response to the highly-contested 2010 election of write-in candidate Lisa Murkowski, allows votes that misspell the candidates name to count. The bill now moves to the Alaska House.

$2,500 recuses a judge: Elected judges in New York will no longer be allowed to hear cases where a lawyer or party has made contributions to his/her campaign in excess of $2,500 in the last two years. The decision, a new rule announced by the state’s chief judge, is designed to curtail the effects of money in judicial politics and will take effect after a 60-day comment period.

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