State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Tag: Voter Suppression

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.

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A Proposed South Carolina Bill to Continue COVID-19 Expansion of Voting Accessibility

By: Anna Miller

In February 2021, the South Carolina House of Representatives began to consider several fundamental changes to the voting process through the general reform bill, H. 3822. As the temporary measures adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have expired, representatives have debated extending and even expanding these measures. Reform proponents argued in support of increasing accessibility to absentee voting, including eliminating the requirement that the absentee voter sign their ballot in the presence of a witness, and then get that witness to also sign the ballot. This bill seeks to codify that change and to further increase ease of access to absentee voting. For example, absentee voters would no longer be required to provide a reason for casting their ballot from outside the state- the bill would completely repeal Section 7-15-320 of the 1976 Code, which provided a list of approved reasons for casting an absentee ballot.

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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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Learning from Lawsuits: How Kentucky’s top officials adapted to satisfy voter complaints

By Cameron Newton

When the dust settled following the contentious 2019 elections in Kentucky, each of the commonwealth’s major executive offices—save for the governorship—was won by the Republican candidate. While the election of Andy Beshear brought control of the Governor’s Mansion back into Democratic hands, perhaps the night’s most shocking result came as Michael Adams, an election lawyer with a history in Republican politics, upset former Miss America Heather French Henry in the race for Secretary of State. No thinking observer would have anticipated emerging election policy to be anything but crafted and contested along rigid ideological boundaries.

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Georgia’s Voter Registration Surge: The Investigations and Lawsuits Behind the Numbers

By: Amber Stapleton

Ahead of the 2020 presidential election, with Georgia expected to be a key political battleground, the state has seen a record number of citizens registered to vote. In the last 11 months alone, more that 352,000 Georgia citizens have been registered to vote and the influx has boosted the state’s voter rolls to the record high of nearly 7.4 million. According to one Atlanta Journal-Constitution article which cited the publications own analysis of registered voters from November 6, 2018 to August 12, 2019, “[a]bout 47% of the new voters who identified their race are minorities and 45% are age 30 or younger.”

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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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PA: The Constitutionality of Poll Watching in Someone Else’s County

By: Melissa Rivera

As the November 8 presidential election is swiftly approaching, concerns by some of election fraud are rampant. Especially in Philadelphia, some are concerned that this traditionally blue city will experience voter fraud. In an effort to curb this fear, in Philadelphia alone, at least 474 Republican and over 3,700 Democrat volunteer poll watchers’ names were submitted to election officials for vetting. This vetting process ensures that each volunteer is a registered voter from the county where he or she will poll watch. This county requirement is the subject of a recent lawsuit filed by the Pennsylvania Republican Party.

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Weekly Wrap Up

Is World Wrestling Entertainment political advertising?  According to election officials in Connecticut, it is.  They have told poll workers that they can ask voters wearing WWE gear to cover it up, fearing that it could be construed as political advertising for Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon, who is also the former CEO of WWE.  Officials said that McMahon is so closely associated with WWE that the gear could easily be considered a violation of rule banning political campaigning within 75 feet of a polling station.  McMahon’s husband, Vince McMahon, said that this was a violation of WWE fans’ First Amendment rights and would deny them their right to vote.  Connecticut Republicans are also up in arms, with the State Party Chairman calling the action “voter intimidation.” This is not unprecedented, however; a similar rule was in place in California, forbidding voters from wearing “Terminator” gear when Arnold Schwarzenegger was on the ballot.

The 9th Circuit struck down part of Arizona’s voter registration laws on October 27, holding that the provisions of the law requiring proof of citizenship conflicted with the federal law. The federal law only requires that applicants “attest their citizenship under penalty of perjury”, while the 2004 voter-approved initiative in Arizona required applicants to register to vote to show proof of citizenship by providing one of the documents on the approved list. The citizenship requirement was “an additional state hurdle” to registration, something the federal law was trying to prevent. The 9th Circuit appeals panel–which included retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor–did not, however, overturn the requirement that voters show identification at the polls in order to vote. Continue reading

Weekly Wrap Up

A 1996 Federal Appeals Court decision is forcing DC TV stations to air “anti-abortion porn.” Missy Smith is a candidate for the DC congressional seat, though many people claim that she is simply an “anti-abortion extremist, who has found a cheap way to get some truly disgusting images onto daytime and primetime TV.” The 1996 federal appeals court decision prevents any censorship of election ads. Prior to this case, FCC Chairman Mark Fowler advised that “The no censorship prohibition in Section 315 was intended to override the statutory prohibition against the broadcast of obscene or indecent materials that is etched in Section 1464 of the Criminal Code” (cited in Gillett Communications v. Becker, 1992). Since the U.S. Supreme Court recently struck down the FCC’s “decency” regulations, freeing the airwaves for uncensored material, so it’s unlikely that Becker will be overturned soon. In the meantime, the video has been removed from YouTube because it violates its policy on “shocking and disgusting content.”

The National Organization of Marriage (NOM), a group opposing gay marriage, is trying to fund an ad in support of Carl Paladino in NY while skirting the election law requiring them to reveal their donors.  Accordingly, they have asked a federal judge to declare NY Election Law §14-100.1 unconstitutional, alleging that it chills their freedom of speech.  NOM would fall under the reporting requirement because they have the goal of “seeing the success of defeat of…political principle[s].” Continue reading

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