State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Tag: special elections

New York: Giving Power to the People

By Fahad Naeem

“It’s not the hand that signs the laws that holds the destiny of America. It’s the hand that casts the ballot.” The power given to voters to choose who gets elected to office is a vast and important right to protect. The people vote for candidates that best represent the interests and perform the duties required of their offices. However, states can steal that power from citizens by allowing state legislators or the governor to appoint officers for vacant positions, as New York had done in its state constitution. New York’s constitution effectively deprived voters of the ability to elect a candidate of their choice. The Attorney General and Comptroller positions can be occupied from several months to several years without any check or say by the voters. That provision was inconsistent with the goal articulated by New York’s constitution in Article 1 Section 1 which states:  “No member of this state shall be disfranchised, or deprived of any of the rights or privileges secured to any citizen thereof . . .” 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

Hawaii Five-O: A $5,000 Budget has Hawaii Rethinking the Special Election

On January 4th U.S. Congressman for Hawaii Neil Abercrombie announced he will resign on February 28th to focus on his run for Governor in November. When a special election is required to fill a U.S. representative’s seat, it may not formally be announced until the current representative officially vacates his seat. Chapter 17-2 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes states that the elections officer must declare the special election not later than within 60 days of the date of the special election (unlike with senators, there is no provision for interim appointments.) Therefore, the earliest the state may hold the special election is May 1st. Continue reading

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