State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Utah’s H.B. 75 Proposes A New Strategy to Spread Ranked Choice Voting Across the State

By: Maxfield Daley-Watson

In 2017 Michael Kaufusi won the Provo mayoral race with only 40% of the vote. During the 2016 presidential election, 21% of Utah voters favored an independent candidate, Evan McMullin, as a result Donald Trump won the state with 45.1% of the vote. Instances of candidates winning elections without a majority of the popular vote is not new to American elections, but several states appear to be making a concerted effort to address the problem. One solution that is gaining momentum is the broader implementation of instant run-off elections or ranked choice voting. While procedures vary across jurisdictions, the basic idea is that voters can rank their choice of candidate. If one candidate does not receive a majority of first-choice votes, the candidate with the lowest number of first-choice votes is eliminated, and the voters who ranked that candidate first have their votes allocated to the candidates they ranked second. The process repeats itself until one candidate has a majority.

Continue reading

The Future of Senate Bill 97 and its Consequences

By: Zachary Daniel

Shortly before former president Trump called for Texas Governor Greg Abbot to perform a “forensic audit” of the 2020 election in the state, the Texas legislature proposed Senate Bill 97 as a remedy for the concerns over the unsubstantiated allegations of election fraud.  If passed, the audits authorized by the bill could easily be weaponized because the bill empowers partisan political actors and the secretary of state over the county electoral process, and simultaneously burdens the counties. The bill has raised concerns among election law activists in Texas, who argue it would have a harmful, long-term impact on the state’s election system.

In the months following the 2020 election, Republican coalitions in states across the country called for audits of election results in four swing states in the name of uncovering alleged voter fraud. In response, the Republican-dominated legislature of Arizona appointed a private firm to investigate the accusations. After months of uncertainty, as well as squandered time, effort, and money, the audit ended and the results were published, showing no indication of fraud. Unfortunately for the rest of the nation, the damage had been done.

Continue reading

Dying to Vote: Merrill v. People First of Alabama

By: Shelly Vallone

“[S]o many of my [ancestors] even died to vote. And while I don’t mind dying to vote, I think we’re past that – we’re past that time,” plaintiff Howard Porter, Jr. told the District Court when he and his co-plaintiffs, other at-risk Alabama voters and associated organizations, filed suit to compel state officials to make absentee and in-person voting more accessible in light of COVID-19. Mr. Porter suffers from asthma and Parkinson’s disease, placing him at higher risk of contracting COVID-19, especially in a public setting.

Continue reading

In Maine, Fight Over Foreign Financing Has Only Just Begun

By: Connor Skelly

A fight over an electrical transmission line in the Great North Woods has ignited a firestorm around the ability of foreign government owned corporations to spend money on electioneering in the state of Maine, with implications that could stretch all the way back to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

LD 194 was passed by the Maine Legislature in the wake of Hydro-Quebec, a company that is solely owned by Quebec’s provincial government, spending $10 million dollars on campaigning against a referendum that would have halted the constructed of a 145-mile transmission line that would bring the company’s electricity into Maine. While entities owned by foreign governments are already prohibited by both federal and Maine law from contributing money to candidates, a loophole still exists that allows them to contribute money in Maine’s popular referendums. LD 194 was meant to close this loophole. The bill prohibited companies with 10% or more ownership by foreign governments from contributing money in any Maine election, including referendums.

Continue reading

Shifting Deadlines: How Changes in the Statutory Redistricting Deadlines Will Impact California’s Elections and Voters (Part 1 of 2)

By: Elizabeth Profaci

After California passed the Voters FIRST Act (“the Act”) in 2008, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission (“the Commission”) has drawn the state’s legislative and congressional districts. Among other provisions pertaining to the work of the Commission, the Act provides deadlines for the release of draft maps for public comment, approval, and certification the Commission must follow. The Act requires the Commission to release at least one set of draft maps by July 1 of the year following the census and the California Constitution requires that final maps must be approved and certified to the Secretary of State by August 15 of that same year.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused delays with the release of census data, which makes complying with these statutory and constitutional deadlines impossible. Recognizing this difficulty, the Legislature of the State of California filed an emergency petition requesting a writ of mandate to adjust the deadlines. In Legislature v. Padilla, the California Supreme Court granted the Legislature’s motion and adjusted the deadlines to require the Commission to release the first map drafts for public comment by November 1, 2021 and to approve and certify the final maps by December 15, 2021. Additionally, the court concluded that “relevant state deadlines should be shifted accordingly” in the event of “further federal delay.” In light of the court’s holding, the Legislature adopted SB 594 in September 2021, which would codify the holding in Padilla.

Continue reading

Louisiana Election Delays

By: Nicholas Brookings

When one thinks of changes to elections, the most common things that come to mind are voting by mail, changes to identification requirements and election locations, and so on. What one does not think about as often are changes to the actual day the election takes place, and yet that change, albeit temporary, has taken place in Louisiana for the 2021 election. This is due to Hurricane Ida, and the massive damage it caused. Indeed, the secretary of state, Kyle Ardoin, stated that 42% of Louisiana voters were impacted by the storm. Power is still out in some effected areas, and some voting locations are still damaged. As a result, the state decided to postpone the elections, moving everything back around a month, with the October 9th elections occurring on November 13th. The run-offs, which were scheduled for November 13th, are now to be held on December 11th. The governor did this through LA R.S. 18:401.1, the election emergency statute for Louisiana.

Continue reading

Voting During and After Incarceration: Past, Present, and Future in New York

By: Stephanie Perry

Recent criminal justice reforms have eased access to the ballot for tens of thousands of New Yorkers with criminal records post-release, but perennial state Senate and Assembly bills to stop the disenfranchisement of people with felony convictions in the first place remain stuck in state Election Law Committee purgatory. So, uninterrupted enfranchisement throughout a felony sentence is currently impossible.

Jailhouse voting may sound unexpected, but a Supreme Court decision protecting the right to the ballot for qualified, incarcerated voters arose from a case originating in upstate New York. In 1972, a group of detainees at the Monroe County Jail in Rochester brought a state case that ultimately resulted in the 1974 decision, O’Brien v. Skinner, that affirms the right of pretrial detainees and others in jail who are not otherwise disqualified from voting to access the ballot. At that time (and today), New York did not eliminate the voting eligibility of people convicted of misdemeanors. Of course, people serving short sentences and those awaiting trial in jail could not easily appear at their polling places to vote.

Continue reading

Requiring designated polling places on university campuses through New York’s S.B. S4658

By: Sylvanna Gross

Historically, young adults have a low voter turnout. They are less likely to have a driver’s license, less likely to be contacted by politicians, and less likely to have vehicles. Yet, the number of college students casting ballots doubled between 2014 and 2018. That translates to a 40.3% national student voting rate, up from 19.3% in 2014. The turnout rate is even more incredible considering the numbers compare midterm election results, and the 2018 voting rate is close to that of the last two presidential election rates of 47.6% in 2012 and 50.9% in 2016.

In response to the voting turnout, where college students seemed to skew more liberal, Republican politicians started “throwing up roadblocks” to prevent students from entering voting booths. To counteract the political tactics meant to restrict student votes, Democrats began “orchestrating an expansion of voting rights.”

Continue reading

Maryland: Re-enfranchisement and Absentee Voting Changes

By: Kelsey Nickerson

Recently, a surge of vote restoration initiatives has gained ground throughout the United States. The primary right addressed—restoring voting rights to those who have completed an incarceration for a felony conviction—is now at least partially granted in every state but two, with the vast majority of states re-enfranchising these citizens thanks to community advocacy. However, in some states, re-enfranchisement has been hampered by a spate of litigation and counter-legislation attempting to stem the tide of reform, complicating the process of restoration in multiple states. As the administration of these rights churn through state legislatures, the constitutionality of these contestations to incarcerated people’s voting rights will inevitably need to be addressed.

Continue reading

Voting Early in Arizona? Make Sure You’re Still on the List First.

By: Mike Arnone

In the wake of the 2020 Election, states across the country have enacted a variety of more restrictive voting laws. Over 400 bills that make voting more difficult have been introduced in 49 states. 30 of these have become law in 18 states. Arizona is no exception to this trend.

In May 2021, Governor Ducey signed SB 1485 into law, making significant changes to the state’s early voting procedures. Effective after the 2024 election, the new law will recast Arizona’s former Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL) as the Active Early Voting List. As the former’s name suggests, voters could indefinitely remain on Arizona’s early voting list and automatically receive a ballot in the mail for any election in which they were eligible to vote. Now, if a voter doesn’t use their early ballot once in two election cycles (once in four years), county election officials are required to purge them from the early voting list if they do not respond  within 90 days to a notice warning them of their impending removal. A voter can still be removed from this list if they have voted in person instead of using their early mail ballot in two election cycles. Voters would still remain registered to vote whether or not they were removed from the early voting list.

Continue reading

« Older posts

© 2022 State of Elections

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑