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Federal Court Ruling Creates Chaos for North Carolina Primaries But There May Be a Solution

By: Blake Willis

Election litigation has experienced a new spike in recent years, with many states being involved with litigation over redistricting plans, Voter I.D. laws, and other ballot access issues. Since the inception of litigation under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), there has been a consistent concern that federal courts should not be involved in determining the policies of voting, re-districting, and other related issues. Cases such as plurality opinion Davis v. Bandemer express such concerns, stating that partisan gerrymandering concerns are not justiciable, and that opening the door for federal courts to examine similar claims may set a dangerous precedent. In Veith v. Jubelirer, Justice Scalia echoed this sentiment, arguing that it is an increasingly difficult task for courts to determine what the predominant factor for drawing a district line may be. The expanding jurisprudence from both partisan and racial gerrymandering cases proves this argument may hold some validity, as evidenced by courts’ disagreement over the correct standard to apply, what the evidentiary standard should be, and who the burden of proof rests upon, as just a few examples. Although this litigation has been ongoing for decades, it is by no means near reaching an end.

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Linda Greenhouse Speaks at William & Mary School of Law

By: Caiti Anderson & Kelsey Dolin

William & Mary Law School had the pleasure of hosting Linda Greenhouse on September 22. Ms. Greenhouse is a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the New York Times who has covered the Supreme Court for thirty years.

She is also a Senior Research Scholar in Law, Knight Distinguished Journalist in Residence, and Joseph Goldstein Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School, where she teaches various courses on the Supreme Court. Her books include Becoming Justice Blackmun, Before Roe v. Wade: Voices that Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court’s Ruling, The U.S. Supreme Court: A Very Short Introduction and The Burger Court and the Rise of the Judicial Right (written with Michael J. Graetz).

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SC: Loyalty Oaths

The idea of swearing or singing an oath pledging loyalty and allegiance to a person, a place, or even an ideal may seem like a vestige of a bygone era where cold war tensions were high and the threat to the American way of life was constantly under attack, even in our own homes. However, loyalty oaths are still commonplace in the bustling, fast paced world in which we live.  Many loyalty oaths are only required of certain elected officials and government employees so it easy to overlook how prevalent loyalty oaths are and the important role they play both in a historical context and today.

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Minor v. Happersett: The Supreme Court and Women’s Suffrage

By: Caiti Anderson
Following the Civil War, the women’s suffrage movement followed two different paths to gain the right to vote. The American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) advocated a state-by-state approach to suffrage, lobbying individual states to pass laws allowing women to vote. On the other hand, the more radical organization, the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), pushed women’s suffrage on a national scale. After the Fifteenth Amendment excluded women, NWSA leaders brainstormed other ways women could gain suffrage, including an additional amendment. However, there were some who believed that the equal rights clause of the Fourteenth Amendment already granted women the right to vote. In order to prove this, the women’s suffrage movement needed a woman to attempt to register to vote. Upon being turned away, this woman would sue and continually appeal until her case came before the Supreme Court. As one of the architects of this plan, Virginia Minor fit the description perfectly.

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Conflicted Court Likely to Reverse 4th Circuit in Maryland Redistricting Case

By: Hayley Steffen

The stakes were high at oral argument for Shapiro v. McManus on November 4, 2015. Justice Breyer said Shapiro and his co-plaintiffs “want[ed] to raise about as important a question as you can imagine . . . And if they [were] right, that would affect congressional districts and legislative districts throughout the nation.” It was clear that the justices struggled with the serious implications that their decision could have for future redistricting and partisan gerrymandering cases.

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Alaskan Mayor In Trouble

By: Eduardo Lopez

The issue of campaign contribution reform has always been a major topic in American politics, but especially in recent years, with the United States Supreme Court striking down limitations on federal campaign donations. Although the Supreme Court of the United States has made a final decision with regard to federal campaign donation limitations, states still possess the power to implement limitations on contributions on the state level.

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Supreme Court hearing Maryland Redistricting Case is not “Frivolous” for Future of Election Law Procedure

By: Hayley A Steffen

The Supreme Court has famously asserted that the right to vote is “preservative of other basic civil and political rights.” Recognizing the right to vote is implicated in election law litigation, Congress enacted special procedures for adjudicating these claims under the Three-Judge Act of 1910. Now codified under 28 U.S.C. § 2284, one provision requires a three-judge district court to hear constitutional challenges to redistricting claims of any congressional or statewide legislative body. Although the statute reads that the single judge to whom the request for a three-judge panel is made “may determine that a panel is not necessary,” it is unclear under what standard the judge has the authority to do so. Next month, the Supreme Court will be called upon to clarify this standard in a case brought by a Maryland man challenging the state’s redistricting scheme.

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Florida’s Lukewarm Remedy for Chilly Early Voting Policies

By Nick Raffaele

While Florida’s relationship with early voting is still relatively new, the honeymoon may already be over. But to understand the hot and cold affair, it is helpful to look back on the couple’s history. Former Governor Jeb Bush first signed early voting into Florida law in 2004, providing early voting fifteen days before an election, eight hours per weekday and eight hours per weekend. Only a short year later, Bush and a Republican legislature cooled on the partnership, dropping the last Monday of early voting before a Tuesday election. The relations heated up again when former Governor Charlie Crist signed an executive order mandating that early voting be extended in response to overwhelming voter turnout for the 2008 Presidential election. Under the leadership of Governor Rick Scott, Florida again turned its back on early voting in 2011 by passing a controversial law that reduced early voting to eight days before an election for a minimum of six hours and a maximum of twelve hours per day. Continue reading

A Shift in Federal Power? Supreme Court to hear Arizona’s Citizenship Requirements for Voter Registration

by James Adam

Arizona law requires individuals to present documents proving U.S. citizenship in order to register to vote. Acceptable proof includes a photocopied birth certificate, photocopied pages of a passport, U.S. naturalization papers or Alien Registration Number, an Indian Census number, Bureau of Indian Affairs card number, Tribal Treaty Card/Enrollment Number, or a photocopy of one’s Tribal Certificate of Indian Blood or Tribal/Bureau of Indian Affairs Affidavit of Birth.  Any change of residence between Arizona counties requires subsequent proof of U.S. citizenship.

In April, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco struck down this Arizona law.  The court declared that federal voting laws requiring only that the applicant sign their name to verify US citizenship supersedes local election law.  In June, the Supreme Court overturned a stay of the decision, and Arizona was unable to require proof of citizenship for registration in the November 2012 election cycle.  However, the state can still urge voters to fill out Arizona registration ballots requiring this proof, but they may not bar an individual from simply registering by merely swearing their citizenship under the federal form.  Also at the time of this decision, the Ninth Circuit upheld Arizona’s photo identification requirement.  The Supreme Court will hear the citizenship arguments early next year. Continue reading

Weekly Wrap Up

No more automatic restoration of rights: Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet have recently attempted to change how released felon regain the right to vote. Their proposal, which the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund suggests must get preclearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, would prevent people who committed non-violent felonies from regaining the right to vote for 5 years and the 5 year clock would restart if that person were arrested during that period, even if no charges are filed. Some have called these requirements a return to Jim Crow-style voting laws.

Campaign finance again in front of the Supreme Court: As mentioned on Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in McComish v. Bennett on Monday morning. The case is a constitutional challenge to Arizona’s Clean Elections Act, which includes a trigger fund provision for publicly-funded candidates. This is one a several such cases that have been heard in federal courts in the last year; several other challenges have come out of Florida, Connecticut, and most recently Wisconsin in the ongoing judicial elections.

“Fair Districts” Amendments go to the Justice Department: Three months after Governor Rick Scott quietly withdrew the preclearance request for the “Fair Districts” amendments (Amendments 5 and 6 to the Florida constitution), the legislature has renewed the request, after reviewing the amendments and deciding they were the proper body to make the request, as opposed to the governor. This, however, will likely not end the battle over these amendments as a lawsuit to block these amendments is still pending.

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