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Release from a Political Life Sentence: How Florida Voters Approved the Largest Enfranchisement in 47 Years – Part I

By: Zach McDonnell

In the 2018 midterm elections, Florida had such close elections that both its Senate and Governor’s races appeared headed for a recount, even several days after November 6. One election in the state, however, presented a resounding victory for a population that’s not used to seeing very many wins, in court or in the political process: convicted ex-felons. 64.5% of Florida voters approved of Amendment 4, a Florida state constitutional amendment that will automatically restore the voting rights of at least 1.4 million people—the single largest enfranchisement of Americans since the ratification of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment in 1971. Now, all felons—with the exception of those convicted of murder and felony sexual offenses—will automatically have their voting rights restored upon the completion of their sentences, including probation and parole. Those convicted of murder and sex offenses will instead be relegated to the restoration system that, prior to Amendment 4’s passage, all Florida ex-felons had to endure.

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Hitting Pause on Ballot Initiatives: How State Legislatures Can Ensure Good Citizen Lawmaking While Still Respecting Popular Will

By: Reeana Keenen

In my last post, I discussed the merits and drawbacks of ballot initiatives as a form of direct democracy. The main contention with ballot initiatives is whether, in practice, they reflect popular will. In D.C. this past summer, the D.C. Council cited this concern when they decided to overturn Initiative 77, which had been approved by a 12 percent margin of voters in the same election that allowed many of those same Council members to secure their Council seats. The Council claimed the low turnout in the primary election on which the ballot measure appeared was so low it could not reflect the true will of the people. The Council further claimed that Initiative 77 passed with too narrow a margin to allow it to stand.

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Virginia’s Odd Law

By Ashley Eick:

Virginia is certainly no stranger to statewide recounts. It’s had two in the last ten years and the nail-biter senatorial race on November 4th almost increased that number to three. For a key swing state with a trend toward close elections, Virginia’s recount laws could become a deciding factor in national politics.   Continue reading

The High Cost of Recounts in Michigan: Will Candidates Take the Risk?

by Jillian, Contributor

A new state bill may make it more difficult for Michigan candidates to pursue recounts after elections. On September 19, 2013, the Michigan House of Representatives passed House Bill 4833 (HB 4833). The bill received bi-partisan support and had a high passage rate of 95-9. The Michigan Senate is now considering the bill. Continue reading

Results, Recanvass, Recount

As Kentucky basketball heats up its season against Maryland and Duke on the road,  several campaigns are gearing up for recanvasses and possible recounts.  The 7th Representative District race between Tim Kline and the incumbent, John Arnold, is separated by only 5 votes of the 15,775 cast.  In the 3rd Senatorial District, the vote margin is 297 out of 36,617 cast for either Whitney Westerfield or Joey Pendleton, the incumbent.  Ted Edmonds, the current representative, also ran a narrow race in the 91st Representative District against Gary Herald who leads him by only 134 votes of the 12,530 cast.

It is not clear whether any of the candidates will request a recount, such a decision usually occurs after the completion of a recanvass.  At least two have filed for a recanvass, with Arnold’s race having the most potential for a recount.  There are a number of avenues that can lead to a recount, in Kentucky.  Either a candidate or an election official can trigger the recount process.  Each of these paths have different requirements.  The election-official initiated recount occurs if election officials report errors in administration to the county clerk.  The clerk then must file a petition with the Circuit Court, within 15 days, requesting a recount.  Election officials did not report any substantial election errors in any of the three races, making it unlikely the county clerk will file such a recount petition.  Continue reading

Hotspots: Key Post-Election Disputes in the States

Keep checking back here for links to the latest state midterm election results and recount coverage


Alaska, Arizona, CaliforniaColorado, Connecticut, Illinois (Gubernatorial, House), Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri,New York, North Carolina, OregonTexas, VirginiaWashington



Joe Miller, the Republican candidate for Senate in Alaska, will probably require a hand recount of the write-in votes before he will concede the race.

Wednesday night, Democrat Scott McAdams conceded the race after only getting 23% of the vote.

Murkowski and Miller are preparing for the next round of ballot counting that will begin next week. Murkowski has set up a separate campaign account to support campaign efforts in the counting process.

Joe Miller is questioning the fairness of the process and has filed a lawsuit in federal court to prevent misspelled ballots being counted for Senator Lisa Murkowski.

The Associated Press reports that a federal court judge has denied Republican Joe Miller’s request for an injunction to stop the counting of incorrectly spelled write-in ballots.

Live coverage of the counting is being streamed online.

The Court has rejected Miller’s request to stop the recount.  The count now shows Murkowski with 98% of the initial write-in vote.

Joe Miller’s prospects for victory are getting slimmer, and the lawyers are starting to leave Alaska.

Alaska election officials have completed the fifth day of counting write-in ballots.  Senator Lisa Murkowski has retained 89% of write-in votes

With almost all votes counted, Senator Lisa Murkowski currently has an edge of over 2,000 votes over Republican Joe Miller.  Murkowski’s total does not include the over 10,000 challenged ballots.

As counting ends, Murkowski is heading back home and is expected to declare victory soon.  8,135 ballots have been challenged, but even if all of those ballots were thrown out by the Court, Murkowski would still be ahead by more than 2,000 votes.

With all but 700 write-in votes counted, Senator Lisa Murkowski has declared victory over Republican candidate Joe Miller.  The AP called the race for Murkowski Wednesday evening.

Joe Miller is asking a federal judge to stop election officials from certifying results declaring Murkowski the winner.  Murkowski leads by about 10,400 votes; Miller has challenged 8,153 of the ballots counted for Murkowski.

A federal judge has granted Joe Miller (R) a temporary injunction preventing election officials from naming Senator Lisa Murkowski the winner.  Miller filed his complaint on the grounds that the counting of misspelled ballots for Murkowski violates state law.  Miller will now bring the issue to state court.

Attorneys for the state of Alaska have asked a judge to decide the case over contested absentee ballots by next week.  The case will be heard Wednesday in state court in Juneau.  Senator Lisa Murkowski is seeking to intervene in the suit.  Her attorneys have said her seniority will be in jeopardy if she is not sworn in when the new Congress meets in January. Continue reading

Weekly Wrap Up

“I want to be your second (or third) choice!”: Jean Quan, Oakland’s mayor-elect, won under the city’s new ranked-choice system by concentrating on being voters’ second and third choice, if they were voting for someone else. The campaign manager for Don Pereta, the heavy favorite in the race, said Quan was “gaming the system” by asking people who supported other candidates to rank her second or third.

Too poor to vote: The ACLU is challenging a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals 2-1 decision that Tennessee could bar three released felons who were behind on child support or restitution from regaining their voting rights. The ACLU is asking for the court to rehear the case en banc, arguing that the decision creates an unconstitutional poll tax.

Sound it out: In the Alaska Senate race, the Division of Elections has only accepted a few of Joe Miller’s challenges to the spelling of his opponent, Lisa Murkowski’s, name on the write-in ballots.  The Director of the Division of Elections said that she was accepting minor spelling mistakes as long as she could “pronounce the name by the way it’s spelled.”

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain: The spending from outside groups in this campaign season has reached record highs, climbing almost to the $300 million mark.  Now, a new study has shown that nearly half of that money comes from groups which won’t reveal the money’s source.  A few notable candidates who used a huge amount of their personal fortunes are Meg Whitman in California and Linda McMahon in Connecticut.  They spent $140 million and $46 million respectively.

Weekly Wrap Up

Are red light cameras racist? According to American Traffic Solutions, they are. ATS opposes a ballot initiative to add red light cameras in Baytown, Texas, saying it will encourage conservative voters to come out in larger numbers for the November election and weaken the power of minority voters. A hearing is currently scheduled on a motion to stop the election.

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley announced he will not be seeking re-election in February 2011. February’s election will be the first time in 64 years that an incumbent is not running for mayor in Chicago. One of the rules set by the Chicago Board of Elections for Mayoral candidates is that they must have lived in the city of Chicago for at least the last calendar year. Does this rule out Rahm Emanuel as a candidate? Read more about the rules to run for mayor here.

This report was recently released and may be interesting to anyone who wants to look at the “threat posed by money and special interest pressure on fair and impartial courts” (quote by William & Mary Chancellor Sandra Day O’Connor). The report looks at the past decade of judicial campaign spending and analyzes some the challenges and threats to our judicial system because of this funding.

The Georgia Supreme Court is looking at the constitutionality of the new voter identification law the Department of Justice approved two weeks ago. Georgia, along with Arizona, checks the citizenship of people who register to vote against Social Security and DMV records. Proponents claim that it blocks illegal immigrants from voting, while critics argue that it could hinder minorities who are legal citizens from voting. The Georgia Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday, September 7.

The Green Party in Arizona has filed suit against several state election officials, requesting that some of the nominees on their ballot be removed and to change an Arizona law that allows people to join a minor party’s ballot with only one write-in vote.  They allege that these nominees were recruited by Republicans to siphon votes away from the Democrat Party.  Steve May, on the Republican ballot, says that he recruited drifters and street performers in Tempe to run as Green Party candidates, but that they are part of a valid political movement.

Democrats in Vermont are facing a shortage of volunteers as they try to recount the results of the primary.  A number of the over 600 volunteers who originally signed up backed out when they found out they needed to commit to a full day of counting.

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Interview with Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie

Mark Ritchie,  the 21st Minnesota Secretary of State, oversaw the state-wide recount of the 2008 U.S. Senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken.  After the official canvass of votes following the 2008 election, the margin separating the top two candidates was less than .5% of votes cast, triggering a mandatory recount.  Ritchie, as chair of the State Canvassing Board, oversaw the recount.  The widely publicized recount took 47 days. Under Minnesota law, the candidate losing a recount has a right to judicial review. Norm Coleman did request a judicial review, a process that took an additional six months.

State of Elections co-editor Laura Deneke recently spoke with Sec. Ritchie regarding the state’s electoral process.  Continue reading

Ye Olde Election Law: The Bizarre History of Election Law

Election law has certainly earned its eccentric reputation.  From zombie voters to hanging chads,  the strange history of modern election law has become ingrained in the public consciousness.  But, as odd as the last decade has been, the previous centuries of election law have been even more bizarre.  So, in this series of articles, State of Elections will take a closer look at some of the stranger moments in election law.

One such moment happened in California’s Siskiyou County. In 1895, Clarence Smith was elected school superintendent of that county by a single vote.  His opponent, George Tebbe, contested the result.  When the ballots were recounted, the court found three additional votes for Tebbe, and declared Tebbe the new winner by two votes.  However, until the ballots could be counted in open court, they had been stored under the desk in the county clerk’s office.  This sounds all well and good, except that Tebbe was deputy clerk at that office, and worked in the same room where the ballots were stored.  Imagine Tebbe, sitting just a few short feet from the ballots, the ballots that would decide his political future.  Even if there was no actual vote tampering, surely even the appearance of impropriety would warrant a stern rebuke from the court.  Of course, no such rebuke was forthcoming. Instead, the court praised the “prudence of the clerk and the fair dealing of all concerned”, and required that Smith prove that ballot tampering took place before taking any action.

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