State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Tag: Equal Protection Clause

Voting Rights and Ancestry in the Virgin Islands

By: Leo Jobsis Rossignol

Thanks to recent media developments, more people are becoming aware of the bizarre fact that, in U.S. territories, citizens cannot vote for the president. However, the vote on the federal level is not the end of the story. There are many further oddities to the voting system in the territories, and we’ll take a moment to explore one of them in this post.

The United States Virgin Islands is one of those territories, and the voting system in place has undergone many changes over time. Originally, those living in the islands had no right to vote or to self-government. Before 1954, the territory was governed by two “municipal” or “colonial” councils (see §5 annotations – prior legislative bodies), one for St. Thomas and St. John, and another for St. Croix (the three main islands), with some positions held by local community leaders. Once a year, or more often if called by the federally-appointed governor, both councils would meet and pass legislation. In the U.S. Virgin Islands Revised Organic Act, passed into law that year, all citizens above the age of twenty-one were granted the right to vote in local elections for both the newly-unicameral legislature and the governor. The law also contained a provision allowing the voting age to be dropped to 18 by popular referendum, which it soon was.

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North Carolina Voter ID Law Struck Down

By: Emma Postel

Once again, a North Carolina voting law has been found unconstitutional. On September 17, 2021, a Wake County North Carolina Superior Court permanently enjoined SB 824, a law passed in 2018 requiring photo identification for in-person voting. The court struck down SB 824 as a violation of the North Carolina Constitution’s Equal Protections clause, as they found it was adopted with an “unconstitutional intent to target African American voters.” Among its findings of fact, the court noted that North Carolina has a long history of implementing voting laws that discriminated against the African American residents of the state. The General Assembly has indicated they will appeal the Wake County Court decision.

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A New Color Under the Voting Rights Act?: Part Two

This is part two. Part I can be viewed here.

Can white minority plaintiffs successfully prove a vote dilution claim under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA)?

Although a federal district court in the Northern District of Texas recently dealt with such a claim, it stopped short of answering this question by sidestepping the question.

Plaintiffs Anne Harding, Gregory R. Jacobs, Holly Knight Morse, and Johannes Peter Schroer challenged a Dallas County Commissioners Court district map from 2011 under Section 2 of the VRA and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment claiming that “the absence of a second county commissioner district that is capable of electing a representative of their choice” diminished their capacity to participate in the political process. Continue reading

(Dis)respecting Communities of Interest

By: Elizabeth Brightwell

My fiancé and I just became homeowners in Richmond, Virginia. Our small, Cape Cod is located on Patterson Avenue, a main thoroughfare for Richmonders in the Near West End. Our new neighborhood attracts many young people, some with children and most with dogs. Most of our neighbors lead a Richmond-centric life, sending their children to Richmond’s Mary Munford Elementary and spending weekends in the city. Continue reading

WY: Proposal Allows County Residents to Vote in City Elections

By: Gordon Dobbs

In many states, people who live just outside of a city’s borders and who are affected by the city’s laws are nevertheless forbidden from voting in the city’s elections. The Supreme Court considered whether this practice is constitutional in 1978 in the case of Holt Civic Club v. City of Tuscaloosa. In Holt, the Court held that extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) statutes that extend municipal police, sanitary, business, and other similar regulatory powers over those living outside municipal boundaries are indeed constitutional, even when those residents cannot vote in municipal elections. The Court held that those who lived outside of Tuscaloosa’s borders had no constitutional right to vote in Tuscaloosa elections, and that it was reasonable for the city of Tuscaloosa to extend certain services to those residents and require them to pay fees to fund those services. This form of ETJ has its roots in post-World War II development booms on the fringes of urban areas in the United States. Some states have been fairly aggressive in their implementation of ETJ: Texas, for instance, allows cities of over 100,000 to extend their ETJ for five miles outside of the city’s boundaries, and cities have used this power to regulate everything from lot size to fireworks use in the county.

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Wisconsin: One Wisconsin Institute v. Nichol

By: Lisa Zhang

One Wisconsin institute, Citizen Action of Wisconsin Education Fund, and six Wisconsin residents filed a complaint against a series of provisions that Wisconsin has made since 2011 to its voting and election laws.

Interestingly, Wisconsin’s election laws just withstood a challenge that had lasted for four years. On March 23, 2015, the Supreme Court denied the petition for certiorari of Frank v. Walker. In Frank, plaintiffs challenged 2011 Wisconsin Act 23, which specifies limited acceptable forms of photo IDs, under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the district court found it in violation of both the 14th Amendment and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The 7th Circuit reversed the judgement on the ground that Wisconsin’s Voter ID law does not differ in ways that matter under the analysis in Crawford v. Marion.

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Native-Hawaiian Self Determination Election Survives Equal Protection Challenge

By: Mollie Topic

In October 2015, a U.S. district judge sitting in Honolulu denied a motion for preliminary injunction to halt an election that is open only to Native Hawaiians. The litigation in Akina v. Hawaii arises out of the Nai Aupuni election, an election process that is ultimately designed to help Native Hawaiians achieve self-determination.

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