State of Elections

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Weekly Wrap Up

–  On June 8th, California voters will weigh in on two election reform measures, Propositions 14 and 15. Proposition 14 would create a single ballot for primary elections. The two candidates who received the most votes would face off in the general election, regardless of their party affiliation. Theoretically, this could result in a general election contest between two members of the same party. Prop 14 also allows candidates to choose to keep their party affiliation off the primary ballot.

Proposition 15, also known as the California Fair Elections Act, would repeal California’s ban on public funding for elections.  Candidates for Secretary of State would be eligible to up to 1,000,000 dollars in public funding for primary elections, and 1,300,000 in public funding for the general election.  Candidates who accepted the funds would be prohibited from raising or spending any money beyond what they receive from the public fund.

–  On May 29th, Florida governor Charlie Crist signed a far-reaching elections bill.  The bill will have a number of effects, including a requirement that any group engaging in political advertising disclose their source of funding. The bill will also make it easier for overseas and military voters to cast their ballots. Interestingly, HB 131 has been criticized by the ACLU for failing to provide adequate voting machines for disabled voters.

– The California State Senate has approved a bill to allow Election Day voter registration.

–  In Ohio, a redistricting reform bill has stalled in the legislature.


Weekly Wrap Up

Every week, State of Elections brings you the latest news in state election law.

– Soon, even a candidate’s tweets will be governed by a legion of rules and regulations.  The Maryland Board of Elections is attempting to devise rules for the use of social media by candidates.

– The Tennessee Senate has passed a bill that would require potential voters to show proof of citizenship before registering.  The state Attorney General believes that the law could potentially violate the federal Motor Voter Act.

– Congressman Michael Capuano has written an editorial for the Boston Herald about Citizens United and the proposed Shareholder Protection Act.  For more about shareholder protection and Citizens United, see this post by William and Mary law professor William Van Alstyne.

– The recent British election and the swift transfer of power from Gordon Brown to David Cameron has some wondering how the U.S. could reduce the time between elections and inaugurations.  See this article from Slate for a proposal for how such a reduction could be accomplished without a constitutional amendment.

Pedro A. Cortés, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of the Commonwealth and the top election official in that state, has resigned. Cortés will be pursuing opportunities in the private sector, as vice president of a voting technology company.

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Weekly Wrap Up

Every week, State of Elections brings you the latest news in state election law.

– A recently filed lawsuit in North Carolina seeks to challenge Section 5 of the Voter Rights Act. Section 5 requires that certain states and municipalities “preclear” changes to their voting laws with the Attorney General.  Essentially, the Attorney General has a veto over any changes to voting laws in certain states, but not in others.  This North Carolina lawsuit (LaRoque v. Holder) claims that Section 5 exceeds Congress’s authority under the Fifth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution.

The iPad has already made its mark on the election law community.  Project Vote, a voter registration and engagement organization, is teaming with Echo Interaction Group to develop a new voter registration application for the iPad. The application would allow users to instantly and accurately record, collect, and upload voter data to a secure server.  Only four states currently allow online voter registration, but the organization is optimistic that more states will follow suit.

– California State Senator Leland Yee has introduced a bill that would permit same day registration in that state.

– The Ohio House of Representatives has unanimously passed a bill that will allow overseas military forces to request absentee ballots electronically, instead of requiring the request be sent through regular mail.

Weekly Wrap Up

Every week, State of Elections brings you the latest news in state election law.

– ACORN, the controversial voter registration and activist group, is disbanding because of declining revenue.

– In the Arkansas Senate race, there’s some controversy over an obscure state law that prevents the use of professional or honorary titles on ballots.  One Republican Senate candidate had hoped to put the title “Colonel” in front of his name on the ballot, but was refused by election officials.  Nicknames, however, are perfectly legal.  Just ask Harold Kimbrell, who will appear on the ballot as “Porky” Kimbrell.

–  During last week’s election law Symposium at William & Mary, the panelists mentioned that census data can be skewed when large numbers of incarcerated felons are counted as “residents” of the state they are incarcerated in.  Here a few editorials discussing that practice.

– More news on the California Redistricting Commission.  Even though over 25,000 people filed the initial application to be on the Commission, less than 1,200 have completed the second step of the application process.  For more general information on the Commission, see this post.

– Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has signed a law that should make absentee voting easier in that state.  The law will require election officials to send a replacement ballot, or notify the voter that he should cast a new ballot, if an absentee voter’s ballot is rejected.

– After much debate, the Florida Senate has passed an electioneering bill.  An alternate version of the bill was ruled unconstitutional for requiring all organizations to register with the state and comply with financial reporting requirements if they even mentioned a candidate or political issue.  The new version of the bill would still require certain organizations to register, but not those that focused only on issues.

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Weekly Wrap Up

This weekly wrap up is a little late, since we posted a summary of our Symposium on Friday instead of our typical weekly wrap up.   To anyone who was waiting with bated breath for the latest news in state election law, I apologize.

Anyway, here’s a slightly belated summary of last week’s state election law news.

– According to a study by the Brennan Center, state judges are raising significantly more money for their campaigns than ever before.  In the last decade, candidates for state judgeships have raised more than 206 million dollars, which is more than double the 83 million raised by candidates in the 1990s.

– Lawmakers in Maryland and Washington D.C. are considering abandoning their traditional September primary dates, as the requirements of the newly passed “Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act” make it impossible to hold a primary so late in the year.

– There’s some controversy in New Mexico over whether Joe Campos, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, qualified to appear on the primary ballot.  Mr. Campos received 19.69% of delegate votes in that state’s pre-primary nominating convention.  Under New Mexico law, a candidate must receive 20% of the vote to appear on the ballot, and for the last week, the New Mexico Democratic Party has been debating whether to round up to 20% and allow Campos’s name on the primary ballot.  Luckily for Campos, the party eventually ruled that the law requires them to round up.  Interestingly, a Republican candidate who received 19.5% of delegate votes was kept off the primary ballot for failing to reach the 20% threshold.

-The Democratic Party is considering launching a 20 million dollar campaign to maintain  or take control of seventeen pivotal state legislatures, in anticipation of 2011 redistricting. The party that controls those state legislatures will have the power to redraw 198 congressional districts.

– The Election Assistance Commission now provides voter registration forms in five Asian languages,  Japanese, Korean, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Chinese.

Chris Biggs has been appointed the new Kansas Secretary of State. The previous Secretary of State, Ron Thornburg, resigned his position on February 15th, forcing Governor Mark Parkinson to appoint a successor to serve the remainder of the term.  Kansas elects its Secretary of State and some fear that being appointed interim Secretary will give Biggs an unfair advantage in the upcoming Secretary of State campaign.  Essentially, Biggs gets all the advantages of incumbency, without having to win an election in the first place.

– Check out our Citizens United and the States page, which tracks the impact of the Citizens United decision on the states.  The page  has reached 72 links and more are being added everyday.

Weekly Wrap Up

Every week, State of Elections brings you the latest news in election law.

– The Alabama House is considering a bill that would require voters to present a photo ID before voting.

– According to a Washington Post – ABC  poll, 80% of Americans oppose the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United.  65% say they strongly oppose the ruling.

– Project Vote and Advancement Project,  two voter protection organizations, have filed a lawsuit against Virginia election officials for failing to provide access to rejected voter registration applications.  The organizations heard reports about unusually large numbers of rejected voter registration applications from Norfolk State University, a historically black college, and asked to review those applications to determine if qualified voters were being unlawfully rejected.  A Virginia law prohibits the disclosure of those records, and so the state refused to disclose the registration applications.  Project Vote and the Advancement Project believe that the Virginia law is a violation of the National Voter Registration Act.

– Hans A. von Spakovsky has posted an editorial discussing the recent redistricting lawsuit in Texas.   For a brief summary of the lawsuit, see our previous Weekly Wrap Up.

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Online Voter Registration: A Small Step in the Right Direction

Lawmakers in the Michigan House recently passed HB 4539 and 4540, which together lay out the principles to allow for the electronic submission of voter registration applications. The change would allow for citizens with access to the Internet to register online by filling out a form similar to the paper form, and signing computerelectronically. The form is then automatically printed at the local clerk’s office. Arizona was the first to implement online voter registration in 2003, followed by Washington in 2008, with six other states following last year.  Other states have proposed similar legislation, and online registration continues to grow in popularity.  In Arizona, 25% of all new voter registrations took place online in its first year and within a few years that number reached 70%. Michigan is expected to see similar numbers. The bills are currently headed to the Senate for further review.

This new legislation has several clear aims. The costs associated with online registrations are significantly lower than paper forms. Arizona spends nearly 83 cents processing each paper voter registration form while their online voter registrations may be completed with a cost of only 3 cents. Postage for delivery and receipt is not necessary with online registration because the form is immediately and automatically printed off at the clerk’s office after the registrant submits online. The registrant then has the option to print off a copy on their printer for personal records. This process would also cut down the amount of information that needs to be manually entered from paper forms, which would help prevent errors.  Michigan in particular experienced difficulties with third-party form falsification last fall with groups like ACORN. Michigan hopes to eliminate such risks  by taking the registration forms out of those group’s hands and giving voters this simple and streamlined way of registering.

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Weekly Wrap Up

Every week, State of Elections brings you the latest news in state election law.

– Winter break at William and Mary is over, and State of Elections is excited to return to a  full time posting schedule. New articles will be posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, beginning on January 11th.

– Senator Chris Dodd has announced he will not seek reelection in 2010.  During his time in the Senate,  Dodd proposed some sweeping changes to voter registration laws.  Take a look at S. 17, Dodd’s proposed “Voting Opportunity and Technology Enhancement Rights Act of 2005”.  If it had been passed, S. 17 would have required states to allow voters to register on election day, and also would have enabled voters to register electronically via the Internet.

– The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the disenfranchisement of felons violates the federal Voting Rights Act.  According to the court, the criminal justice system is so “infected” with racism that limiting the right of felons to vote is contrary to the Act’s prohibition against the denial of voting rights on account of race.  The court’s opinion can be read in full here.

– The Rhode Island Senate and House has enacted legislation allowing 16 and 17 year olds to “pre-register” to vote.  Those that pre-register will be automatically added to the voter rolls will they turn 18.  The bill had been previously vetoed by Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri, but the veto was overridden by the legislature.   For more information on pre-registration, see FairVote.org’s fact sheet.

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