All posts by Franita Tolson

Delaware Supreme Court holds that Vote by Mail and Same-Day Voter Registration statutes violate the state constitution

This order from the Delaware Supreme Court affirms in part and reverses in part an earlier Court of Chancery decision resolving the constitutionality of the two statutes. The Court of Chancery found that the Delaware General Assembly, in adopting same day voter registration, did not violate Article V, Section 4 of the state constitution, which required “at least” two registration days. The court found that the state constitution established a floor, and not ceiling on voter registration days, a sentiment with which the state supreme court disagreed.

However, the Court of Chancery struck down the statute permitting no excuse mail-in voting. In a holding affirmed by the Delaware Supreme Court, the court argued that the circumstances for absentee voting enumerated in the state constitution are exhaustive. The state legislature is not permitted to expand the list of circumstances in which vote by mail is permitted.

A full opinion from the Delaware Supreme Court is forthcoming. A statement from Common Cause Delaware is here.

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“Faulty Textbooks: The Strip Mining of Anthony Downs’ ‘Economic Theory of Democracy'”

New article by Steven Hill at DemocracySOS that does a deep dive into Anthony Downs’ seminal work, Economic Theory of Democracy, and its ramifications for today’s politics. In particular, the article focuses on how Downs’ work has been misrepresented so as to mask the instability and polarization of the U.S. political system. Check it out!

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“RNC seizes on political affiliations of poll workers in swing states”

The Washington Post reports that there have been increased efforts to recruit partisan poll workers in swing states. Notably, Republicans have filed lawsuits in a number of swing states challenging the regulations that govern poll workers, seeking to make the jobs more accessible and to increase transparency about who has worked the polls.

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“Can Stakeholders Mobilize Businesses for the Protection of Democracy? Evidence from the U.S. Capitol Insurrection”

New article by Zhao Li and Richard Disalvo in the American Political Science Review. The abstract reads:

An unprecedented number of major U.S. companies announced changes to their campaign contributions following the Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021. We analyze the role of corporate stakeholders in these announcements as well as their implications for democratic institutions and business–government relations. Mirroring polarized public reactions to the Capitol insurrection, companies with more Democratic-leaning stakeholders (e.g., employees, consumers, shareholders) were more likely to publicly refuse contributing to Republican legislators who objected to the electoral college results. Moreover, these pledges held up in available campaign finance records through the third quarter of 2021, implying significant losses in corporate political action committee contributions for said Republican legislators. Given increasing polarization and heightened expectations of the civic responsibility of businesses, the partisanship of corporate stakeholders may prove important in mobilizing businesses to protect democratic institutions. However, such stakeholder pressure may also weaken businesses’ bipartisan legislative coalitions and compel corporate influence-seeking activities to go dark.

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“Hand-counting ballots may sound nice. It’s actually less accurate and more expensive.”

This is the second article in a series that NPR is running to shed light on how our voting process works. The article refutes claims that hand-counting ballots are preferable for tabulating votes because the research shows that hand-counts are “significantly less accurate, more expensive and more time consuming” than machine tabulation.

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“Voting Systems: How They Work, Vulnerabilities, and Mitigation”

New report from Steven Rosenfeld (National Political Report, Voting Booth) and Duncan Buell (Chair Emeritus, USC Dept. of Computer Science). Short description of the report from its authors:

This report describes how the systems that create ballots and detect and count votes work. The national media often trivializes this aspect of elections. They talk about clerical tasks, not properly programming and syncing 100s of devices. In 2020, errors by officials in a few rural counties with setting up and using these computers led to wrong election night results. Trump votes were bumped down in spreadsheets and assigned to Biden. Or officials double-counted votes but blamed the computers. Though found and fixed, the errors helped MAGA provocateurs and legislators to launch bogus post-election inquiries. These charades, featuring self-appointed experts spouting irrelevant and made-up technical-sounding claims, became fixtures on right-wing media.

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Monopoli on the Nineteenth Amendment

Paula Monopoli (University of Maryland Francis Carey School of Law) has a new article out entitled, “Gender, Voting Rights, and the Nineteenth Amendment.” The article is forthcoming in the Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy. The abstract is below:

One hundred years after the woman suffrage amendment became part of the United States Constitution, a federal court has held—for the first time—that a plaintiff must establish intentional discrimination to prevail on a direct constitutional claim under the Nineteenth Amendment. In adopting that threshold standard, the court simply reasoned by strict textual analogy to the Fifteenth Amendment and asserted that ‘there is no reason to read the Nineteenth Amendment differently from the Fifteenth Amendment’. This paper’s thesis is that, to the contrary, the Nineteenth Amendment is deserving of judicial analysis independent of the Fifteenth Amendment because it has a distinct constitutional history and meaning. The unique historical context preceding and following the Nineteenth’s ratification militates for courts to adopt a holistic interpretative approach when considering a Nineteenth Amendment claim. Such an approach has both expressive and doctrinal implications, providing support for courts to adopt disparate impact, rather than intentional discrimination or discriminatory purpose, as a threshold standard for such claims. Reasoning beyond the text—from legislative intent, purposes, structure, and institutional relationships—could restore the lost constitutional history around the Nineteenth Amendment, making it a more potent tool to address gendered voter suppression today, especially for women of color. This paper provides a framework for judges willing to move away from rigid textual analogy toward a more holistic constitutional interpretation when evaluating a constitutional claim under the amendment.

Can’t wait to read this one! Important and timely.

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New Report from the Brennan Center

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law has published “Voting Laws Roundup: October 2022,” their latest roundup of state voting and election laws, and “Restrictive Voting Laws Enacted Since 2020 in Effect for the Midterms,” a companion table outlining the impacts of the post-2020 restrictive voting laws that are in effect for the midterms.

The main findings (as of September 12, 2022): 

  • Voters in 20 states are being impacted by 33 new restrictive laws enacted since Jan. 1, 2021 and in effect for the midterms
    • The effects of these laws include but are not limited to reduced polling places and hours, shortened early voting periods, barriers to registration, and more (see table for all effects) 
    • The 20 states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Wyoming 
  • So far in 2022, 7 state legislatures have enacted 12 election interference laws, of which 11 are in effect for the midterms
    • “Election interference” legislation – a brand new type of law that emerged after the 2020 election – either opens the door to partisan interference in elections or threatens the people and processes that make elections work (see roundup for these laws’ impacts)
    • The 7 states: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma 
  • So far in 2022, 12 state legislatures have enacted 19 laws that expand access to the vote, of which 18 are in effect for the midterms
    • The 12 states: Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina 

See the full report/table for more analysis and conclusions.

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