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William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Tag: Shanna Reulbach

Symposium Report: Scholars, Officials, and Students Discuss Election Flexibility as a Solution to 2013 Election Delays

by Shanna Reulbach, Special Contributor

The William & Mary Election Law Society hosted a symposium searching for solutions to the delays that occurred on Election Day 2012—those that President Obama directed national attention to during his acceptance speech that night.  The symposium began with small-group sessions that brought scholars, elections officials, and students together to discuss the issues.  I was part of the group focusing on election flexibility options, and had the honor of talking with Dr. John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center and two outstanding Virginia general registrars, Barbra Gunter and Donna Patterson.

The group focused first on two of the “hottest” ideas for voter flexibility: early voting and absentee voting.  Currently, Virginia offers mail-in absentee ballots to voters who are able to select one of a number of excuses for not being present in their precinct on Election Day.  Virginia’s system of in-person absentee voting, which other states may call early voting, also requires an excuse.  Ms. Gunter and Ms. Patterson related that Virginia voters passing through their offices express support of  having more options for early voting through either method.  The registrars agreed that more options for early voting would reduce delays on Election Day because people would likely take advantage of those options, meaning less people coming to the polls on that Tuesday in November.  Continue reading

Indiana’s confusing record of voter registration

by Shanna Reulbach

Indiana’s recent history with voter registration is somewhat baffling, to say the least.  The state seems to swing like a pendulum between liberal and conservative measures and priorities, and compliance and defiance of federal mandates that extend the availability of registration materials to new populations.  An illustrative juxtaposition would be that the rhetoric of voter fraud is often at the forefront of Indiana election debates, yet the legislature authorized online voter registration in 2009, when many viewed the use of computer technology as enabling fraud.

The first subject that comes to any election law junkie’s mind in discussing Indiana’s election code is the state’s voter ID requirement and the U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding of the law in its 2008 decision, Crawford v. Marion County Election Board.  In that case, Indiana asserted a governmental interest in preventing voter fraud at the polls, pointing to its “unusually inflated list of registered voters” as a major source of concern.  While Crawford was not centered on voter registration, the state’s arguments reveal a lack of confidence in the voter registration process’ ability to prevent fraud.

Fast-forwarding to this past year, two other events mark the voter registration debate.  First, in March, a grand jury indicted Secretary of State Charlie White with three counts of voter fraud: “filing [a] fictitious registration,” “voting where not registered,” and “fraudulent registration.”  White was registered at his ex-wife’s home and voted in that district, even though he had moved away.  Ironically, the Secretary of State serves as the chief election officer.  The Indiana Recount Commission determined that White was eligible to run for that office, but he is still awaiting his criminal trial.  This scandal has shined a spotlight on registration issues, but fraud has not been the rallying point.  All of the parties involved with the accusations, White, his Democrat opponents, and the Commission, agree that registration residency requirements have to be liberalized to account for nontraditional living configurations. Continue reading

Vote Centers are here to stay in Indiana

by Shanna Reulbach

Indiana is one of several states pioneering vote centers, which are consolidated polling places open to any eligible voter in a locality. Vote centers came into existence in 2003, when Larimer County, Colorado first pioneered the configuration. Today, nine states have laws permitting vote centers, but Indiana was the first to use them on a large scale.

In 2006, the Indiana Secretary of State began a pilot program, allowing counties to test vote centers to determine if they would be an effective means of election day administration. Three counties, Cass, Tippecanoe, and Wayne, participated in the program from 2007 to 2010, and their reports prompted the state legislature to pass a bill during its 2011 session to enable all counties to adopt the vote center model as their permanent method for voting. Continue reading

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