State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Tag: Voting Rights (page 1 of 2)

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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Recent New Jersey State Election Law Limits Delivery of Mail-In Ballots by Authorized Individuals

By Briana Cornelius

On August 10, 2015, the New Jersey legislature passed a new state election law, Public Law 2015, Chapter 84, which limits the number of “Vote by Mail” ballots that a designated delivery person can pick up and deliver on behalf of other registered voters. Under the New Jersey “Vote by Mail Law,” an “authorized messenger” is an individual who is permitted to obtain mail-in ballots for other qualified voters. Previously, authorized messengers were allowed to obtain up to ten ballots for delivery to other voters, and “bearers” were permitted to return an unlimited number of completed ballots to county election boards on behalf of other voters.  The new law, which took effect immediately, reduces the number of ballots that both an authorized messenger and bearer can deliver to just three. This change in the law (you can see the previous version of the law here) represents the first time there has been any limit on the number of ballots that a bearer can deliver to county election officials.

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Abysmal Voter Turnout and an Electoral Dinosaur: Indiana’s Meaningless Off-Year Municipal Elections

By: Jacob Kipp

All politics is local. That truism (often wrongly attributed to former Rep. Tip O’Neill) has long encouraged politicians to remember the people back home because, ultimately, those people will vote based on the issues that matter to them. But politics is looking a lot less local now. Local concerns have taken a backseat to partisan politics, and local candidates are looking more and more like extensions of their national counterparts. Perhaps these changes can help explain why municipal election voter turnout is plunging across the United States. Indiana, the state with the lowest voter turnout in the country for the 2014 midterm elections, held its most recent off-year municipal elections on November 3.

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Hawaii Election Challenged with Fifteen Amendment Claims

By: Andrew Lowy

A Hawaii election has put the Fifteenth Amendment in an interesting spotlight. Hawaii’s Act 195, passed in 2011, authorized the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission to compile a list of Native Hawaiians who would later be able to organize themselves as a new nation of Native Hawaiians. This new Hawaiian nation would be similar to already existing Native American nations. Now, Justice Kennedy has issued an order temporarily blocking the counting of ballots in an election proposing to start the process of creating the Native Hawaiian nation.

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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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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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Trying to Stop Drive-By-Voting in New Hampshire

By: C. Rose Moore

Round two of the “drive-by voting” battle in New Hampshire ended on September 16th, 2015 when the New Hampshire Senate failed to override Governor Maggie Hassan’s veto of Senate Bill 179.  That proposal would have required potential voters to be domiciled in the state for at least thirty days prior to an election.  This was the second initiative purportedly aimed at combatting this type of fraud, which can be illustrated by the actions of Vice-President Joe Biden’s niece.  While “she didn’t break the letter of the law… many people think she violated the spirit of it” by voting in the 2012 elections in New Hampshire after only working on the campaign there for a short time.

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In Kansas, 90 Days to Prove Citizenship

Is 90 days enough time to comply with proof-of-citizenship voter registration requirements? In Kansas, at least 31,000 presumably qualified electors who have attempted to complete applications to register to vote will see their applications deleted under new administrative regulations in the state. Most of these applicants failed to submit proof of their U.S. citizenship, to a county election official satisfactory which is required by the 2011 Kansas Safe and Fair Elections Act (“S.A.F.E. Act”). Such suspended voters are generally unable to cast ballots in local, state, or federal elections; however, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Arizona v. Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc., under the National Voter Registration Act (“NVRA”), any Kansan who applies to register to vote using the federal voter registration form is allowed to vote in federal elections, even if he or she does not include proof-of-citizenship. In order to be removed from the list of suspended voters and be added to the state’s voter rolls, applicants must provide proof-of-citizenship to their local county election official. Under the previous system, county election officials worked feverishly to contact all applicants on the suspended list repeatedly in order to help them complete the proof-of-citizenship requirement. Some argue these unending attempts to encourage applicants to comply with registration requirements were too onerous.

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Vilified and Disenfranchised: Indiana’s New Law Blocks Sex Offenders from Common Polling Place

By: Jacob Kipp

The public’s sentiment toward sex offenders has long been overwhelmingly negative, fueling an ever-increasing number of legal restrictions. Perhaps the most reviled of all offenders are child molesters, which  have been the target of national registration programs (though such registries are often over-inclusive). Those registries are widely used to restrict sex offenders from being anywhere near schools, parks, or youth centers. But what happens when sex offenders want to exercise their right to vote and are not allowed into their polling place because it happens to be a school?

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The Territorial American Exceptionalism to the Fundamental Right to Vote

By Ajinur Setiwaldi

Voting is one of the most fundamental rights of U.S. citizens. Congress explicitly states as much in the National Voter Registration Act. Chief Justice Warren invoked the principle when delivering the Reynolds v. Sims  opinion in 1964, stating, “undoubtedly, the right to suffrage is a fundamental matter in a free and democratic society.”

If you’re a U.S. citizen born and living in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Marina Islands, or Guam, your right to vote in federal and presidential elections is a lot less fundamental than that of citizens living on the mainland. If you’re willing to move to one of the 50 states, you can join the franchise. Even if you move to D.C., you will still have a larger say on who the next president will be than you would if you live in the territories thanks to the 23rd Amendment.

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