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Tag: Virginia Constitution

Removing Elected Officials in Virginia: Supreme Court to Clarify Requirements for Petitions for Removal

By: Cody Brandon

The Supreme Court of Virginia is set to consider an appeal that could drastically affect efforts to remove elected officials. Other than those officials for which removal procedures are specified in the Constitution of Virginia, removal procedure is governed by Virginia Code § 24.2-230 et seq. Unlike many other states that use recall elections, these statutes provide for the removal of elected officials by a circuit court for neglect of duty and misuse of office as well as convictions for various drug-related, sexual assault, and hate crimes. The process is initiated when a number of petitioners equal to ten percent of the total number of votes cast at the last election for the office sign a petition for removal stating the grounds for removal. The petitioners must be registered voters residing in the district which the officer serves. Once the action is instituted, the Commonwealth steps in (through a Commonwealth’s Attorney) as the complaining party, and the officer is subjected to a trial of sorts to determine if there are grounds for removal that satisfy § 24.2-233. Continue reading

Defining “Compactness”: Meaningless Truism or Gerrymander Slayer?

By: Ben Williams 

This past week, an upstart election law reform organization in Virginia garnered national attention for a lawsuit that could redefine the legal strategies of anti-gerrymandering activists across the country. Per Article II, § 6 of the Virginia Constitution, “[e]very electoral district shall be composed of contiguous and compact territory…” (emphasis added). Virginia is not alone in requiring its districts to be compact—a majority of states have such a requirement. But while the word “contiguous” is easily defined (all parts of the district are connected in a single, unbroken shape), the political science community lacks a common understanding of what exactly contiguity is. As a threshold issue, there are two potential ways to measure a district’s compactness: spatially (the physical shape and area of the district) or demographically (calculating the spread of persons within a given district).  While many states do not define which of these measures should govern, or if one should be preferred over the other, the Virginia Supreme Court in Jamerson v. Womack said the language of Art. II (cited above) “clearly limits [the Article’s] meaning as definitions of spatial restrictions in the composition of electoral districts.” Thus, one of the key questions the Circuit Court judge and the attorneys in the case had to address was how to measure spatial compactness in Virginia?

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Virginia’s “Right-to-Work” Amendment: Nothing Has Changed

By: Kelsey Dolin

On November 8th, 2016, Virginians not only cast their ballots for the next president and other elected officials, but also lent their voices to two proposed amendments to the Virginia Constitution. Voters decided against a right-to-work amendment and approved an amendment exempting the spouses of first responders killed in the line of duty from property taxes.

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Past Prisoners at the Polls: The Legality of Vote Restoration to Felons in Virginia

“No person who has been convicted of a felony shall be qualified to vote unless his civil rights have been restored by the Governor or other appropriate authority.”

This is the mandate of Article I, § 2 of the Virginia Constitution.  But, how much authority does a Virginia governor really have to restore voting rights to felons? The answer seems to be that a Virginia governor has fairly broad authority to restore voting rights to felons so long as he does so on an individualized basis. The next question becomes: what counts as an individualized basis? That answer may be gleaned from the Virginia Supreme Court’s recent decision not to find Governor McAuliffe in contempt of court for his actions taken in August to restore voting rights to felons.

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Shades of Grey: Virginia’s Ongoing Struggle to Ensure Proportionate Minority Representation

By: Hannah Thomson

As of 2014, African Americans made up just under 20% of Virginia’s total population. Yet, of the eleven congressmen and women elected from Virginia, incumbent Bobby Scott is currently the only African American representing the state, and only the second to be elected in the state’s entire history. This means that, while amounting to almost 20% of the total population, only 9% of Virginia’s seats in the House of Representatives are held by African Americans. Statistics improve slightly when looking at Virginia’s General Assembly. Of the one hundred members of the House of Delegates, thirteen representatives are African American (13%); of Virginia’s forty senators, five are African American (12.5%). Ultimately, a total 12.8% of the Virginia’s legislators are African American, falling about 6% below the total African American population in the state.

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Election Law Program Alumni File Redistricting Suit

By: Emily Wagman

William & Mary Law School alumni Brian Cannon ’11 and Nick Mueller ’12 are a force in the latest round of redistricting in the state of Virginia. Cannon, Executive Director of OneVirginia2021, is leading an effort to improve fairness in the redistricting process in Virginia. OneVirginia2021: Virginians for Fair Redistricting has filed a lawsuit challenging 11 state legislative districts in the Richmond Circuit Court. Mueller, working with the Richmond firm DurretteCrump, is one of the lead attorneys on the case. As students, both Cannon and Mueller participated in William & Mary Law School’s award-winning redistricting team during the Virginia Redistricting Competition in 2011.

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