State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Category: New York (page 1 of 4)

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.

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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.”

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Lawsuit Filed Over New York State Ballot Postmark Requirements

By: Blake Vaisey

New York is once again facing issues with its mail-in ballot system. A lawsuit filed on September 11 by, among others, Emily Gallagher, a candidate running for the New York State Assembly’s 50th District, claims that potentially thousands of ballots are going to be thrown out in future elections do to New York State’s postmark requirements, a problem that is compounded by the slowdown that the United States Postal Service has been facing in recent months. 

The lawsuit is related to NY Elec. L. §8-412, which requires absentee ballots to have a postmark from the postal service showing the date on which the ballot was sent, and rejects ballots postmarked any time after the day of the election. 

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After a Stormy Primary Season, New York Builds a Levee. But Will it Hold?

By Blake Vaisey

To say that New York’s primary election season this summer didn’t go well would be an understatement. Starting with a failed attempt to cancel the state presidential primary, the state faced a slew of issues regarding a huge influx of absentee ballot requests, an increase of 655% since the 2018 general election.  Thousands of ballots were disqualified due to the state’s requirements for absentee ballots, with issues such as missing a dated postmark or misplaced signatures being the main causes of ballots being disqualified. Even issues outside of the control of the voter, such as damage caused by the post office, could result in the ballot being disqualified. These issues were compounded by the fact that a reported 34,000 absentee ballots were not mailed out to voters until one day before the primary.

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Legal Voter Suppression in New York?: Part II

By: Michael A. Villacrés

In a previous post, we examined New York’s restrictive voting laws. During the state’s presidential primary in April 2016 it emerged that thousands of voters had been purged from the registration rolls in the months leading up to the primary, creating a public scandal.  The day after the primary vote, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, a Democrat, announced an investigation into New York City’s Board of Elections after his office received over one thousand complaints of voting irregularities.

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Legal Voter Suppression in New York?: Part I

By: Michael A. Villacrés 

In April 2016, Sen. Bernie Sanders was closely chasing Hillary Clinton in the delegate race to capture the Democratic presidential nomination. The Sanders campaign staged outdoor rallies and made campaign stops across New York City in an ambitious bid to upset Clinton on her home turf.  Sanders was hoping that increased voter turnout from young people across the city, especially in Brooklyn, his former childhood home, would provide enough votes to counter Clinton’s strength among minority voters.  As it turned out, Clinton won handily 57% to 42%. 

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New York, Fusion Voting, and Gary Johnson – What’s an Independence-Libertarian to do?

By: Caiti Anderson

There is no state quite like New York – and not many election laws quite like New York’s, either. As one example, only New York and six other states permit fusion voting. On a fusion ballot, a candidate can be listed as candidate for more than one party. Fusion voting, as noted the 1997 Supreme Court decision of Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party, had its heyday during the Gilded Age. Political parties, rather than governmental entities, distributed their own ballots to voters but did not affirmatively tell voters what other parties endorsed the same candidate(s) they supported. Thus, Candidate Smith could be supported by both the Granger and Republican parties, but those who voted the Granger ballot would not necessarily know from the ballot the Granger party handed them that the Republican Party also supported Smith.

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The Big Apple and Big Money: Matching Public Funds in New York City

By: Caiti Anderson

It seems that New York politicians can’t catch a break – or they just can’t stop getting caught for their indiscretions. Celia Dosamantes, a 25-year-old rising star in Queens, learned this the hard way. Arrested on September 7, 2016, Ms. Dosamantes allegedly forged campaign donations to receive the 6-for-1 matching funds during her failed 2015 run for City Council. While other news organization will surely cover Ms. Dosamantes scandalous trial, New York City’s unique and progressive campaign finance laws stand at the center of this story, and deserve recognition.

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Minor v. Happersett: The Supreme Court and Women’s Suffrage

By: Caiti Anderson
Following the Civil War, the women’s suffrage movement followed two different paths to gain the right to vote. The American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) advocated a state-by-state approach to suffrage, lobbying individual states to pass laws allowing women to vote. On the other hand, the more radical organization, the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), pushed women’s suffrage on a national scale. After the Fifteenth Amendment excluded women, NWSA leaders brainstormed other ways women could gain suffrage, including an additional amendment. However, there were some who believed that the equal rights clause of the Fourteenth Amendment already granted women the right to vote. In order to prove this, the women’s suffrage movement needed a woman to attempt to register to vote. Upon being turned away, this woman would sue and continually appeal until her case came before the Supreme Court. As one of the architects of this plan, Virginia Minor fit the description perfectly.

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NY Loophole Allows Individual’s $4.3 Million in Direct Contributions, Part II

By: Dan Carroll

As detailed in a recent State of Elections post, a misguided 1996 New York State Board of Elections (BOE) decision treating limited liability companies (LLCs) as individual people rather than corporate entities. The decision allows LLCs to directly contribute up to $60,800 to an individual candidate for statewide office while traditional corporate entities are limited to $5,000 in aggregate contributions to all candidates in a year. LLCs need not disclose the identities of their founders, membership or officers, so their political activities are difficult to link to their funders.

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