State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Tag: Voter Apathy

California’s New Motor Voter Law Benefits the Young, Not Undocumented Immigrants

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed legislation that will allow for automated voter registration at the DMV for citizens obtaining or renewing a driver’s license or state ID. The law is being referred to as the New Motor Voter Act. California lawmakers are attempting to combat historically low voter turnout rates in the state by removing barriers to registration. The law will go into effect on the first of 2016, but it may not be immediately implementable. The goal is to have the system functional by the June 2016 primaries.

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The Will of the People: Michigan’s Ballot Initiative to Allow By-Mail Voting

Alexander Hamilton once said, “A share in the sovereignty of the state, which is exercised by the citizens at large, in voting at elections is one of the most important rights of the subject, and in a republic ought to stand foremost in the estimation of the law.” In Michigan, the citizens have incredible power to voice their opinion and influence the sovereignty of their state. Through initiative, Michiganders may propose either a constitutional amendment, which does not require state legislative approval before being placed on the ballot, or state statutes, which must first be submitted to the state legislature for approval before being placed on the ballot. In order to participate in the initiative process, Michigan does not even require that the petitioner register with the state, but rather only requires that the petitioner report campaign contributions in excess of $500. However, petitioners may submit their proposal to the Bureau of Elections in order to greatly reduce the chance that formatting errors will prevent the proposal from being accepted.

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A time for change: an examination of Baltimore City’s record low voter turnout

by Ashley Ward

As you drive through the streets of Baltimore City, many areas still bare the campaign efforts of the six mayoral candidates. Posters plastered on walls, fliers in store front windows and stickers on bumpers. The abundance of the campaign fanfare throughout the city turned out to be a rouge when the September 13th primary produced the lowest voter turnout in Baltimore’s history. After the  polls closed, 23% of registered voters had participated, equaling only 12% of the city’s population (rounded from the Unofficial Polling Place Turnout). Even more disappointing was the turnout for the November 8th general election, which produced an even lower turnout than the primaries—reportedly, only 10-12% of registered voters showed. Until September, the lowest turnout Baltimore had seen for a primary was 27% in 1991.

Maryland is not the only state dealing with disappointingly low voter turnout. Kentucky’s November 8th gubernatorial race had only a 29% turnout, and New Jersey saw their lowest turnout in history with 26%. So what is causing such low voter turnout and should there be concern with a Presidential election year approaching? Many scholars and political analysts have their own theories. One of the most popular reasons is voter apathy. The 2010 census reported that the highest population within the 20-24 years and 25-29 years age group. The Unofficial Polling Place Turnout reported that both ages were the least likely to vote, especially the males within the age group. When asked why he did not vote, 21 year old Kevin Clark said, “It was all the same old stuff.”  Many younger citizens do not understand the importance of voting. Continue reading

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