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Can Virginia Become a Redistricting Unicorn like Iowa?

By Aaron Barden

There was a lizard on the floor of the James City County (JCC) government building’s Board of Supervisors meeting hall on August 8th, 2017. I was there to watch the board consider OneVirginia2021’s resolution, which in most cases does little more than declare support for non-partisan redistricting. But JCC’s resolution was different. The resolution had a paragraph tacked to the end that would have changed the County’s local redistricting procedure from a citizen board with no criteria-based restrictions (preventing use of party, no incumbency protection, etc.) to a reliance on the Board’s staff to draw the lines with such restrictions. Continue reading

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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Robo-calls, in Montana and Elsewhere

By: Cameron Boster

           Background

Missoula, Montana, is a beautiful city. There are mountains in the distance, tall, deep-green trees everywhere, old buildings – and a rocky, white-swirling river moving through it. No reasonable person seeing Missoula for the first time would think to focus on the city’s current robo-call election law controversy.

This month, parents of students enrolled in Missoula’s schools received automated phone calls containing a message from Missoula’s mayor, John Engen. The content of the message is available on Youtube. In short, the message urges parents to vote on an upcoming bond, tells them where and how they can cast their ballot, and ends with this encouragement: “Thank you for everything you do to support your children, and to ensure a positive future for your family – and our wonderful community.”

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Take a Note from Nebraska

By: Eleyse D’Andrea

Criminals have been stripped of their rights – including the right to vote – throughout history.  The revocation of voting rights, known as disenfranchisement, can be traced as far back as ancient Greek and Roman civilization. European colonists carried the concept of disenfranchisement to America, and it has prevailed in modern times despite various challenges.  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the disenfranchisement of convicted felons does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution in 1974, and several years later found that a disenfranchisement law is unconstitutional only with evidence of purposeful racial discrimination. This decision gave states like Nebraska the right to permanently disenfranchise convicted criminals. Although Nebraska originally had one of the harshest disenfranchisement laws – a lifetime ban for ex-felons – a bill passed in 2005 provides automatic restoration of voting rights to felons two years after completion of felony sentence.

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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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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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The Crossroads of America v. The Lone Star State: Comparison of Indiana and Texas ID Laws

By: Katie Teeters

Voter ID laws are spreading across the country leaving controversies in their wakes. Advocates believe requiring ID is a good way to prevent in-person voter fraud and increase public confidence in the election process, while opponents say that voter ID laws unduly burden the right to vote. Still, a total of 36 states have passed laws requiring a showing of some form of identification in order to vote. This blog post will take a look at voter ID laws and their respective implications in Texas and Indiana.

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Nebraska: Cattle, Corn, and the Unicam

By: Eleyse D’Andrea

Debate over partisanship has been a major point of contention throughout American history.  Nonpartisanship in the early twentieth century focused on removing party politics from election processes to lessen the power and influence of political machines on citizens’ voting decisions. At the other end of the spectrum, proponents of partisan structure supported the positive role of political parties as a means of mobilizing citizens to participate in the political process, and furthermore lauded party identification on ballots as central to informed voting. In today’s America, partisanship is common and party ballot identification is a central element of many voting models. Nebraska, however, stands alone as the only state to remove party labels from state legislature ballots

Nebraska

Nebraska sample nonpartisan ballot

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The Trial of Susan B. Anthony: A Book Review

By: Caiti Anderson

SBAThe women’s suffrage movement developed and empowered some of the most infamous women in American history. The name Susan B. Anthony is inextricably linked to the effort to expand voting rights. Although many can recognize Anthony as an important leader in the suffrage movement, remarkably few know that she voted in the 1872 presidential election and was subsequently arrested for illegal voting. Her trial made national news and marked the initial use of civil disobedience within the women’s suffrage movement. Martin Naparsteck explores Anthony’s trial in the book, The Trial of Susan B. Anthony: An Illegal Vote, a Courtroom Conviction and a Step Toward Women’s Suffrage.

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