« Greenberg, Koufax, and Yom Kippur | Main | In Defense of Early Voting »

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Most Important Election Law Question of the Decade: Local Rules on Voting Rights

Ned asks a really interesting and significant question: what will be the most important election law issue of the decade?

Regarding election law doctrine, I think that the potential of the Supreme Court adopting a standard for partisan gerrymandering is the most significant, as it will open the courthouse doors to a whole new round of litigation every redistricting cycle.  Two cases are winding their way through the lower courts -- one from Wisconsin and the other from Maryland -- that could provide substantive scope to a new Court majority that wants to cabin the worst abuses in partisan gerrymandering.  

But if "important" means "will most effect voters in how they participate within the political process," then perhaps we need to look more granularly to what is happening on the ground in states and even cities with respect to election law. 

Indeed, this November voters around the country will decide whether to adopt various election-related reforms.  In Maine, the voters will decide whether to adopt ranked choice voting, in which voters list the candidates in order of preference.   Supporters say that this election system will produce a result that better reflects the sense of the electorate and will help third parties.  Missouri voters will decide whether to amend their state constitution to allow voter ID laws in light of a 2006 Missouri Supreme Court case that invalidated the prior voter ID provision based on the state constitution.  Wisconsin is trying to implement a voter ID law this year amidst various problems.  Many states have adopted online voter registration, with others sure to follow.

At the local level, Seattle is now using "democracy vouchers," a unique form of public financing in which voters are provided four vouchers worth $25 each to donate to any candidate for office in the city.  San Francisco voters may expand the voter rolls to allow sixteen-year-olds to vote in city elections and to allow noncitizens to vote in school board elections.  Howard County, Maryland will vote on a public financing system for its own elections.  

(If you know of other referenda on election laws on the ballot this year, can you let me know?)

We do not have one election system but thousands of election systems that all operate on the same day.  How voters interact with their own local system has the biggest effects on their own political participation.  These various election law changes, to me, represent the most important (and under-discussed) issues in the world of election law.

Posted by Josh Douglas on October 11, 2016 at 04:39 PM in Law and Politics | Permalink

Comments

Post a comment