Tag Archives: Voter Registration

Supreme Court 2017-18 Term Preview: Part II (November Arguments)

In Part I of this year’s Supreme Court preview, we took a look at the ten cases set for argument during the first two weeks of October.  Currently, for it’s six-day November argument session (which actually begins on October 30), the Supreme Court has eight cases.

Unlike October in which seven cases have the potential to generate headlines or impact elections or major policy issues, November looks a lot less intense.  The first week is one of those technical weeks that matter mostly to the parties and the attorneys who practice in an area — two cases dealing with the procedure for federal habeas practice (the review of state court decisions by the federal courts), one case deals with bankruptcy issues, and one case deals with the tolling of state law claims while a related federal claim is pending.  The second week starts with another two technical cases — another bankruptcy issue and a case on the disclosure requirements for companies that have publicly traded stocks and bonds (focusing mostly on when an incomplete disclosure is misleading).

The last two cases — set for November 7 and November 8 — respectively are the big political cases of the November argument session.  The first case (Patchak) involves what appears to be a growing trend — Congress passing laws to deal with pending cases.   In this case, after federal courts had found that plaintiff’s had raised colorable claims (i.e. ones that, if true, would entitle him to relief), Congress passed a law directing that the courts to dismiss the case.  While Congress does have some authority to change the laws governing certain types of claims or the procedural rules that apply to claims, the rules are a little bit less clear when Congress tries to direct the judgment in a specific case.  Adding to the complicating factors, the case involves the U.S. government taking land into trust for a tribe.  While the merits of whether the land properly belongs to the tribe is technically not the issue at this stage of the case, that may play some role in the analysis. Continue Reading...

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Voter Registration and Early Voting

Vote by JessIn the United States, unlike most major democracies, election law is primarily set by the state.  Additionally, elections are run by local officials — usually elected in partisan elections.  For those involved in elections (candidates, supporters, and voters),  there are two significant consequences to this aspect of American democracy.  First, every state has its own rules and timetables for registering to vote and for voting.  Second, even within those rules, local officials have a lot of discretion that can influence the results of elections.

To win, campaigns need to do two things.  First, they need to communicate a message that connects to potential voters.  Second, they need to get those potential voters to vote.  The messaging part is like the tip of the iceberg.  It occurs above the surface.  At this time of the cycle, advertisements are a rising tide.  Depending upon where you live and what races are competitive, political ads are slowly becoming more and more omnipresent (ultimately peaking in the week before the election when ads for consumer goods will all but disappear from the air).  But political ads are run out of the campaign headquarters and involve the local activist very little.  It is the part beneath the surface — the get out the vote campaign — that requires a good field operation and local effort.

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A “Rigged” Election

animated flag glitterFor several weeks, Donald Trump has been spouting a lot about how, if he loses, it will because the election was “rigged.”  As discussed further below, in the sense of fraud and phony votes, it is almost impossible to rig an election.  However, as in the Republican primary, to the extent that the election is rigged in the sense of the rules favoring a certain candidate, the rules are almost certainly rigged in favor of Donald Trump.

The first and biggest way that the rules are rigged in favor of Donald Trump is the  electoral college.  As folks may remember from high school history or government class, a vote for a candidate for president is actually a vote for a slate of electors supporting the candidate.  Those electors then vote in December for the candidate on whose slate they ran.  A candidate needs to win 270 of the 538 electors to win.  Each state has a number of electors equivalent to the state’s representation in Congress — it’s House seats plus its Senate seats.  Because every state has two Senate seats,  the electoral college is weighted in favor of small states.  (If you have two House seats, you have twice as many electoral votes as House seats.  If you have fifty House seats, you only have four percent more electoral votes than House seats.)  Of the twenty-one smallest states (those with four or fewer House seats), Republicans have won twelve of the twenty-one states in the past four elections.  Of the nine states that have gone Democratic in one or more of the last four elections, four are considered swing states.

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