Election Law

Issues to Watch


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North Carolina’s Voter ID Law: A Burden on the Right to Vote

Ashley Triplett*

Amidst an already controversial and historic election cycle, federal courts have stepped in to strike down or modify states’ voter identification (ID) laws.  On July 29, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit unanimously overturned a decision by the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina and struck down provisions of North Carolina’s voter ID law.  N.C. State Conference of the NAACP v. McCrory, No. 16-1468, No. 16-1469, No. 16-1474, No. 16-1529, 2016 WL 4053033 (4th Cir. July 29, 2016).  In its opinion, the Fourth Circuit recognized the “disproportionate [negative] impact” that North Carolina’s voter ID law, SL 2013-381, had on African Americans attempting to vote in the state.  See id. at *15.  Considering the history of voting discrimination in North Carolina and the inexorable link between race and party lines, the Fourth Circuit struck down certain provisions of SL 2013-381, finding that they were motivated by “discriminatory racial intent” in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  Id. at *17.


Issues to Watch

Assessing the Ability of Governor Hogan to De-Politicize Maryland’s Federal Redistricting Process

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Fixing the Broken-Winged Pterodactyl: Assessing the Ability of Governor Hogan to De-Politicize Maryland’s Federal Redistricting Process

In form, the original Massachusetts Gerrymander looks tame by comparison, as this is more reminiscent of a broken-winged pterodactyl, lying prostrate across the center of the State. The Third District is rated at or near the bottom of all congressional districts in multiple measures of statistical compactness”

Stanley R. Carignan*

The 2010-midterm elections ushered in a new era of partisanship and legislative stalemate unprecedented in modern times.  Adam Bonica, Introducing the 112th Congress, Ideological Cartography (Nov. 5, 2010), http://ideologicalcartography.com/2010/11/05/ introducing-the-112th-congress/.  While the election was a national victory for Republicans, Democrats in Maryland retained their control over the Governor’s office and both chambers of the state legislature.  2010 General Election Results, Md. State Board of Elections, http://www.elections.state.md.us/elections/2010/results/General/gen_results_2010_2_003-.html (last visited Aug. 27, 2015).  In October 2011, Governor Martin O’Malley called a special session of the state legislature to update Maryland’s congressional maps in compliance with the 2010 U.S. Census.  Jeff Newman, Redistricting 101: Democrats Positioning for 7-to-1 Capitol Hill Advantage, SoMd News (Sept. 30, 2011), http://www.somdnews.com/article/20110930/NEWS/709309923&template=southernMaryland.  Republicans, the minority party, faced considerable legislative obstacles to getting any favorable districts drawn in the new congressional maps.  2010 General Election Results, supra.  Indeed, the congressional districts ultimately produced by the special session are today considered some of the most blatantly partisan in the nation.  Christopher Ingraham, America’s Most Gerrymandered Congressional Districts, Wash. Post: Wonkblog (May 15, 2014), http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2014/05/15/americas-most-gerrymandered-congressional-districts/.  Justifiably frustrated with the outcome of the partisan redistricting process, Republicans successfully petitioned for a voter referendum on the new congressional maps approved by the legislature.  Aaron C. Davis, Md. Voters Likely to Decide Congressional Map, Wash. Post (July 11, 2012), http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/maryland-politics/post/md-voters-likely-to-decide-congressional-map/2012/07/11/gJQASWxidW_blog.html.  Despite the Republican outcry, Maryland voters approved of their new partisan congressional districts at a ratio of nearly two to one.  Official 2012 Presidential General Election Results for All State Questions, State Board of Elections, http://www.elections.state.md.us/elections/2012/results/general/gen_qresults_2012_4_00_1.html (last updated Nov. 28, 2012).  A similar process played out across the nation as state parties in the majority or supermajority leveraged their power to draw favorable districts.  Noah Litton, The Road to Better Redistricting: Empirical Analysis and State-Based Reforms to Counter Partisan Gerrymandering, 73 Ohio St. L.J. 839, 841 (2012). (more…)

Issues to Watch

The Voting Rights Act Turns 50

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The Voting Rights Act Turns 50

Laura E. Cress

August 2015 marked the golden anniversary of a piece of civil rights legislation that is largely considered the most successful ever adopted by the United States Congress—the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA).  Introduction to Federal Voting Rights Laws, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, http://www.justice.gov/crt/introduction-federal-voting-rights-laws-1 (last visited Oct. 11, 2015) [hereinafter VRA Intro].  Fifty years ago on August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the VRA into law to combat a near century of racial discrimination that continually contaminated the voting process in parts of the country, even after the enactment of the Fifteenth Amendment’s guarantee of the right to vote without discrimination.  Shelby v. Holder, 133 S. Ct. 2612, 2633 (2013) (Ginsburg, J., dissenting).  But in 2013, minority citizens protected by the Act suffered a setback when the Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the Act in its Shelby v. Holder decision.  Id.  The VRA today has a less profound effect on disenfranchised voters’ rights than the Act Congress enacted 50 years ago, and renewed as recently as 2006.  Shelby, 133 S. Ct. at 2621 (majority opinion); Adam Liptak, Supreme Court Invalidates Key Part of Voting Rights Act, N.Y. Times (Jun. 25, 2013), http://nyti.ms/17zP82p. (more…)