State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Tag: Voter Suppression

North Carolina’s 2013 Voting Laws Were Struck Down By the 4th Circuit, But The State May Not Be Out of the Legal Fights Yet

By: Blake Willis

When the Fourth Circuit struck down North Carolina HB 589, the notorious law which toughened voter-ID requirements, limited early voting, and limited same-day registration, many who champion voter rights believed that North Carolina’s long-standing history as a state with suppressive voter laws may begin to change. However, that optimism may be short lived as North Carolina is now facing challenges on two other election law provisions.

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PA: The Constitutionality of Poll Watching in Someone Else’s County

By: Melissa Rivera

As the November 8 presidential election is swiftly approaching, concerns by some of election fraud are rampant. Especially in Philadelphia, some are concerned that this traditionally blue city will experience voter fraud. In an effort to curb this fear, in Philadelphia alone, at least 474 Republican and over 3,700 Democrat volunteer poll watchers’ names were submitted to election officials for vetting. This vetting process ensures that each volunteer is a registered voter from the county where he or she will poll watch. This county requirement is the subject of a recent lawsuit filed by the Pennsylvania Republican Party.

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Weekly Wrap Up

Is World Wrestling Entertainment political advertising?  According to election officials in Connecticut, it is.  They have told poll workers that they can ask voters wearing WWE gear to cover it up, fearing that it could be construed as political advertising for Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon, who is also the former CEO of WWE.  Officials said that McMahon is so closely associated with WWE that the gear could easily be considered a violation of rule banning political campaigning within 75 feet of a polling station.  McMahon’s husband, Vince McMahon, said that this was a violation of WWE fans’ First Amendment rights and would deny them their right to vote.  Connecticut Republicans are also up in arms, with the State Party Chairman calling the action “voter intimidation.” This is not unprecedented, however; a similar rule was in place in California, forbidding voters from wearing “Terminator” gear when Arnold Schwarzenegger was on the ballot.

The 9th Circuit struck down part of Arizona’s voter registration laws on October 27, holding that the provisions of the law requiring proof of citizenship conflicted with the federal law. The federal law only requires that applicants “attest their citizenship under penalty of perjury”, while the 2004 voter-approved initiative in Arizona required applicants to register to vote to show proof of citizenship by providing one of the documents on the approved list. The citizenship requirement was “an additional state hurdle” to registration, something the federal law was trying to prevent. The 9th Circuit appeals panel–which included retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor–did not, however, overturn the requirement that voters show identification at the polls in order to vote. Continue reading

Weekly Wrap Up

A 1996 Federal Appeals Court decision is forcing DC TV stations to air “anti-abortion porn.” Missy Smith is a candidate for the DC congressional seat, though many people claim that she is simply an “anti-abortion extremist, who has found a cheap way to get some truly disgusting images onto daytime and primetime TV.” The 1996 federal appeals court decision prevents any censorship of election ads. Prior to this case, FCC Chairman Mark Fowler advised that “The no censorship prohibition in Section 315 was intended to override the statutory prohibition against the broadcast of obscene or indecent materials that is etched in Section 1464 of the Criminal Code” (cited in Gillett Communications v. Becker, 1992). Since the U.S. Supreme Court recently struck down the FCC’s “decency” regulations, freeing the airwaves for uncensored material, so it’s unlikely that Becker will be overturned soon. In the meantime, the video has been removed from YouTube because it violates its policy on “shocking and disgusting content.”

The National Organization of Marriage (NOM), a group opposing gay marriage, is trying to fund an ad in support of Carl Paladino in NY while skirting the election law requiring them to reveal their donors.  Accordingly, they have asked a federal judge to declare NY Election Law §14-100.1 unconstitutional, alleging that it chills their freedom of speech.  NOM would fall under the reporting requirement because they have the goal of “seeing the success of defeat of…political principle[s].” Continue reading

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