State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Tag: Universal Voter Registration

Weekly Wrap Up

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

– On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Doe v. Reed.  The plaintiffs argue that Washington’s Public Records Act, which makes the names of signatories to ballot initiatives a matter of public record, should be declared unconstitutional .  Members of a group called “Protect Marriage Washington”, who submitted petitions for a referendum to repeal Washington’s domestic partnership laws, have asked for an injunction against the publication of their names.  The signatories fear harassment from gay marriage proponents should their names be published, as required under the Public Records Act. Here’s a transcript of the oral arguments.

– The Supreme Court of New Jersey has agreed to hear a case involving an attempt by a Tea Party organization to recall Senator Robert Menendez.  The New Jersey constitution allows Senators to be recalled, but the U.S. Constitution is silent on the issue.  The appeals court previously ruled in favor of the Tea Party and allowed their recall efforts to continue.

– Merced County in California is seeking to remove itself from the restrictions of Section 5 of the Voting Rights ActSection 5 requires that certain states and municipalities “preclear” changes to their voting laws with the Attorney General.  Only four counties in California are subject to the additional restrictions imposed by Section 5.

– Here’s a very odd story out of Orange County California.  According to a local newspaper, dozens of voters were allegedly tricked into registering as Republicans.  Members of the Republican Party supposedly tricked passersby into thinking they were signing petitions for liberal causes, like legalizing marijuana, when they were actually signing voter registration forms that identified them as Republicans.  The California Republican Party offers an $8 dollar bounty for every new Republican registration, which apparently inspired this latest attempt to trick voters into registering as Republicans.

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Weekly Wrap Up

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

– The Kentucky House has voted overwhelmingly to pass a proposed constitutional amendment that would restore felon voting rights in that state. Currently, the governor must approve the restoration of voting rights, but the proposal would automatically restore voting privileges upon the completion of their sentence.

– In Texas, a lawsuit has been filed over the creation of new city council districts.  The new districts were created without distinguishing between voting citizens and non-citizens, so according to the plaintiffs, there are wide disparities in the number of voting age citizens from district to district.  They claim the new districts, due to this disparity, are a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause

– The Hawaiian legislature has struck down two bills that would have significantly changed how elections are conducted in that state. Hawaiian elections are overseen by an appointed chief elections officer and the office of elections, but given the recent problems in that state, the legislature is looking for new ways to handle elections. The bills would have put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to create a new office of Secretary of State to oversee elections.

– The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that state election codes do not automatically pre-empt local laws.  The controversy began when voters in Florida’s Sarasota County approved a proposal that banned touch screen voting machines.  The state government banned touch screen machines some time later, but the state questioned the constitutionality of the Sarasota County proposal, claiming that state election codes trumped local legislation.  The Court rejected this argument, and upheld the right of local officials to take steps to ensure the accuracy of elections.

– Adam Fogel at Fairvote has written this article about the growing controversy over universal voter registration.

Weekly Wrap Up

– The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United has been released, and it’s a doorstopper.  Weighing in at over 180 pages, the decision gives corporations, unions, and non-profits more power to spend freely in federal elections.  Of course, Citizens United has sparked quite a bit of controversy.  Rick Hasen, a leading election law scholar and member of the William and Mary Election Law Program Advisory Board,  posted a scathing critique of the opinion on Slate, and an examination of the possible future of campaign finance on the Huffington Post.  Ironically, Hasen’s book was cited in the majority opinion.

– Senator Chuck Schumer  is rumored to be working on a “universal voter registration” bill.   Originally, rumors had pegged Barney Frank as the author of the bill, sparking a mild controversy on the Hill and a fierce denial by Frank.   The possibly fictional bill would automatically register millions of people to vote.

– State of Elections has published several articles about felon disenfranchisement over the past few weeks, all of which have supported the restoration of felon voting rights.  In the interest of balance, here’s an editorial opposing the restoration of felon voting rights, written by Hans A. Von Spakovsky and John Park and published in the Richmond Times Dispatch.

– State of Elections is working on a new article, possibly a series of articles, about voting machines.  Specifically, we will be looking at New York City’s recent decision to replace its old lever operated machines with modern electronic voting machines.  If you have any information about NYC’s process for selecting a company to provide its machines, or any special knowledge about voting machines in general, please contact us at

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