Analysis and Commentary on Election Law

Political Impediments to Carving California into Three States, and Why Tim Draper Should Support the NPV Plan for Presidential Elections

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Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar continues his discussion of the proposal by Silicon Valley billionaire investor Tim Draper to break up California into three separate states. Amar describes several political obstacles to Draper’s proposal and explains how implementation of the National Popular Vote plan could actually help Draper achieve his goal of dividing the state.

Oregon May Become the First State to Use Direct Democracy to Join the Presidential National Popular Vote Agreement Plan

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Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on a recent significant development in the election reform movement known as the National Popular Vote interstate compact plan. Amar explains the why the NPV would benefit voters in all states and why Oregon’s shift in particular is important.

Can and Should States Mandate Tax Return Disclosure as a Condition for Presidential Candidates to Appear on the Ballot?

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Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar considers whether states have the authority to mandate tax return disclosure in order to appear on the presidential election ballot—and if they do, whether exercising that authority is a good idea. Amar explains why the legal authority for enacting such laws is unclear and argues that they could potentially undermine the democratic process, whereas a national popular vote would strengthen the process.

Why Electors Should Not Make Hillary Clinton (or Anyone Else Besides Donald Trump) President

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Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar argues that the presidential electors should not elect anyone besides Donald Trump when they cast their ballots on December 19. Amar points out that while there are better way to elect a president than the electoral college, it would be unwise to switch rules after the end of the election and allow independent, unaccountable electors to make decisions based on what they think America wants.

Fixing the Problem of “Faithless” Electors

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Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar proposes a solution to the problem of the “faithless” elector—a person who pledges to vote in a particular way but then who wants to cast his or her electoral college vote in a different direction. Amar provides specific language that states could implement as law to address these rogue individuals whose actions could alter a presidential election result.

2016: Who’s Rigging What?

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Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies considers whether, as Donald Trump claims, the election is “rigged.” Margulies looks specifically at felon disenfranchisement and finds a close correlation between local Republican control and restrictive approaches to voting.

Lessons Learned from this Term’s Legislative Districting Decisions, Especially the Harris Case from Arizona

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Dean and law professor at Illinois Law, Vikram David Amar describes some of the takeaway points from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions on legislative districting, particularly that in Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. Amar points out that the unexpected death of Justice Scalia in the middle of the term affects at least the reasoning—and perhaps the outcome—of this and many other cases.

What We Could Learn from Brazil (and Vice Versa) About Presidential Impeachment Procedures (and Related Matters)

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Vikram David Amar, law professor and dean at Illinois Law, compares and contrasts the presidential impeachment procedures in the United States and Brazil. Amar suggests five ways in which these two large presidential democracies could benefit from more detailed study of the other’s procedures.

A Specific Proposal That Helps Give Us a Sense of What Getting Rid of Citizens United Might Entail

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Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar examines California’s Proposition 49—which seeks the voters’ approval for the California legislature to ratify an amendment to the federal Constitution to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC—in order to shine light on what might be required to overturn the decision on a federal level. Amar argues that Proposition 49 highlights just how difficult it would be to craft a workable constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

The Return of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) before the Supreme Court: The Harris v. AIRC Case Argued Next Week

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University of Illinois College of Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar discusses a case in which the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments next week—Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. As Amar points out, that case lies at the intersection of many contentious aspects of 21st century American democracy, including dissatisfaction with elected officials, partisan zeal, racial equality, and federal–state relations.

A Minimum Wage of Zero

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Chapman University law professor Ronald Rotunda questions the practice of both the Hillary Clinton Campaign and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to employ unpaid interns. Rotunda argues that in both instances, the interns do not receive the type of training or education from the experience that is required in order for an unpaid internship not to violate federal labor laws.

What the Supreme Court’s Arizona Redistricting Ruling Means for Presidential (Not Just Congressional) Election Reform

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UC Davis law professor Vikram David Amar comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision holding that “legislature”—as used in the Elections Clause of Article I, Section 4, of the Constitution—includes within its definition the people of a state undertaking direct democracy.

What a California Proposal to Authorize the Killing of Gays Says About the Initiative Process and the First Amendment

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UC Davis law professors Vikram David Amar and Alan E. Brownstein discuss the so-called “Sodomite Suppression Act”—a recently proposed California initiative. Amar and Brownstein argue that despite the clear illegality and immorality of the proposed initiative, many of the suggestions that the attorney who proposed it be punished or that the initiative process be altered to prevent these types of initiatives are themselves unconstitutional in some cases, and at best ill-advised in other cases.

Reflections on the Oral Argument in the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission Case: Some Interesting (and Disheartening) Features, Including Justice Kennedy’s Incomplete Description of U.S. History

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U.C. Davis law professor Vikram David Amar comments on the recent oral argument in the Arizona Independent Redistricting case before the U.S. Supreme Court. In particular, he points out the lack of attention to the question of standing and Justice Anthony Kennedy’s overly (and erroneously) simplistic view of U.S. history.

Meet our Columnists

Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately prior to taking the position at Illinois, Amar served as the Senior Assoc... more

Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal scholar and a Professor of Law at The George Washington University. He teaches tax law and tax policy, and he has taught contract law, law and economics, and... more

Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in constitutional criminal procedure, evidence, and animal rights. She has published a... more

John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973. Before becoming White House counsel at age thirty-one, he was the chief minority counsel to the Judiciar... more

Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He has written hundreds of popular essays, dozens of scholarly articles, and four books on constitutional la... more

Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School of Law.  She is an expert in sex discrimination law. Her most recent book,  more

Marci A. Hamilton

Marci A. Hamilton is one of the country’s leading church-state scholars and the Fox Professor of Practice and Fox Family Pavilion Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion in the... more

David S. Kemp

David S. Kemp is an attorney and managing editor at Justia. He received his B.A. in Psychology from Rice University and his J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall)... more

Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of Record in Rasul v. Bush (2004), involving detentions at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Station, and in more

Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry is the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, where she also directs the graduate program on Sustainable International Developmen... more

Ronald D. Rotunda

Ronald D. Rotunda is the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, at Chapman University, Fowler School of Law. He joined the faculty in 2008. Before that, he was Univ... more