State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Author: cpkelliher

Historic Change Again on the Horizon in Mississippi-Part II

By: Tamikia Carr Vasquez

In November, Mississippi voters will have the opportunity to vote on removing a Jim Crow era provision from the state’s constitution. Currently, to win certain statewide offices, a candidate must win the majority of the popular vote and win a majority of Mississippi’s 122 House districts. The Mississippi Center for Justice is at the forefront of leading the effort to abolish this procedure. In 2019, the Center worked on a federal lawsuit against the state. I recently spoke with Vangela M. Wade, President and CEO of the Center. This is the second and final part of our conversation. In Part I, we discussed the background of the current electoral process.

TCV: So this brings me to my next question: I’m in an election law class this semester and we’ve been talking about Baker v. Carr, one person one vote, and Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections which eliminated poll taxes in state elections, and we talked about Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. With all of that precedent, how is it that in 2020 this state constitutional provision remains constitutional?
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North Carolina’s HB 1169, Part 2: The Witness Requirement Saga Reduces to “Chaos”

By: Forrest Via

As discussed previously, the North Carolina General Assembly passed HB 1169 this summer to, in part, loosen absentee-ballot requirements in response to COVID-19: The legislation lowered the state’s absentee-ballot witness-signature requirement to one person. For some, this change was not enough—the North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans filed suit against the State Board of Elections, arguing the presence of any witness requirement violated the state constitution due to the circumstances presented by the pandemic.

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In Maryland, Still Waters Run Deep

The year 2020, in its abundant mercy and generosity, will soon deliver to the American people a welcome respite of stability in this chaotic year of elections: Election Day. The “Time of chusing” remains “the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November” (for Congress as well as for the Presidential electors), and so, as is tradition, Americans eagerly wait for an early November day and the first bite of election results.

But below the surface of the stillness that precedes Election Day, canvassing operations around the country are churning through mail-in ballots. With still two weeks to go, many states have already begun counting votes-by-mail. Maryland’s local canvassing operations got the green light on October 1st, the earliest of any state, in order to handle the mail-in ballots from the 48% of its electorate that planned on using them in light of the pandemic. As of October 20th, the deadline for ballot requests, Marylanders had asked for 1.63 million mail-in ballots and voters had “cast” roughly 696,000 of those, returning them to local boards of elections by hand, mail, or through one of the state’s 283 drop boxes.

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Illinois Minor Party Access to Ballots in the Age of COVID-19

By:  Anthony Scarpiniti

In the 2016 Presidential election, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won Illinois’ electoral votes by capturing 55.2% of the popular vote. Donald J. Trump, the ultimate winner of the election, carried 38.4% of the vote. The remaining 6.4% of Illinois’ votes went to Libertarian party candidate Gary Johnson (3.7% of the votes), Green party candidate Jill Stein (1.4% of the votes), and other write-in candidates (1.3% of the votes).

In Illinois, in order to get on the Presidential ballot in the general election, a candidate must collect signatures from voters. The number of signatures varies based on how the candidate is classified by the state: a candidate affiliated with an established political party, a candidate affiliated with a new political party, and an independent candidate. Candidates in the latter two groups must collect significantly more signatures than those affiliated with established political parties. In order to get on the ballot, these candidates must collect either 25,000 signatures or signatures totaling one percent of votes cast in the previous election, whichever is less.

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Alabama Voter ID Law Here to Stay

By: Jeff Tyler

The Eleventh Circuit recently decided a 2015 lawsuit brought against Alabama’s voter photo ID law. The suit – brought by the Alabama NAACP, Greater Birmingham Ministries, and several individual plaintiffs – challenged Alabama’s requirement that all voters must provide photo ID in order to vote. Alabama’s voter photo ID law passed in 2011 with zero support from black legislators, but did not go into effect until 2014. In its lawsuit, the NAACP claimed that the photo ID requirement, as implemented, violates the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Fifteenth Amendment, and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (“VRA,” now codified at 52 U.S.C. § 10301).

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