Analysis and Commentary on Election Law
Is Mississippi’s Distinctive Method of Electing Governors Constitutional? Part One in a Two-Part Series

In this first of a two-part series of columns, Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone consider whether Mississippi’s method of electing its governor—requiring a successful candidate to win both a majority of the state house of representatives and a majority of districts—is constitutional. Amar and Mazzone describe some of the important issues the case raises under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.

Three Observations About the (Limited) Impact of the Tenth Circuit’s Recent Decision (in Baca v. Colorado Department of State) Concerning “Faithless” Electors in the Electoral College

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar offers three key observations about a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit concerning “faithless” electors in the Electoral College. Specifically, Amar explains why the potential impact of the decision on the National Popular Vote movement is most likely limited, not extensive.

Could a Faithless Elector Ruling Doom an Attempt to Circumvent the Electoral College?

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf considers whether a possible Supreme Court ruling in a “faithless elector” case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit could end the National Popular Vote (NPV) movement, which attempts to circumvent the Electoral College by interstate compact. Dorf provides a short background of NPV and the Tenth Circuit’s decision, and he explains why a decision by the Court decides to affirm the Tenth Circuit’s reasoning would threaten NPV.

Why Challenges to California’s Tax-Return-Disclosure Law Should Fail (Putting Aside Whether They Will)

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on the Trump administration’s recent legal challenge to California’s law that denies ballot access to presidential candidates who have chosen not to release their tax returns. Without opining as to whether that challenge is likely to succeed or whether it is a good idea for states to enact such laws, Amar explains why, as a normative matter, the arguments in favor of striking down the law are misplaced, or at the very least, overly simplistic.

The 100-Year Anniversary of the First State Ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment: Reflections on the Breadth of Freedom from Discrimination in the “Right to Vote”

In honor of the 100th anniversary of Illinois’ ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar reflects on what it means to be free from discrimination in the right to vote. Amar points out the connection between the right against discrimination in voting and the right discrimination in jury service and calls upon us all to consider what full, equal citizenship means.

Overcoming Partisan Objections to Electoral College Reform: How Red States Could (and Should) Adopt the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact But Defer Implementation Until 2032

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar describes recent developments in the reform movement known as the National Popular Vote (NPV) interstate compact plan and explains how those hesitant to get on board (particularly elected Republican legislators) can address their concerns with the plan. Specifically, Amar proposes that states should adopt the NPV interstate compact but delay implementation until 2032—a time in the future at which no one today can anticipate which party (if either) the compact would benefit.

Colorado Is Poised to Join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and Alter the Dynamics of the Movement

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on the most recent development for the election reform movement known as the National Popular Vote (“NPV”) interstate compact plan—its imminent adoption by Colorado. Amar describes three reasons that Colorado’s adoption of the plan is such a significant step for the movement.

Trump “Hush” Payment to Stormy Daniels Likely Does Not Violate Election Law

NYU law professor Samuel Estreicher and JD candidate David Moosmann argue that the $130,000 “hush” payment of adult film actress Stormy Daniels, paid through his personal lawyer Michael Cohen, likely does not violate campaign finance laws. As Estreicher and Moosmann explain, the payment most closely resembles an expenditure by a candidate from his own funds, not a contribution from a third party and thus is permissible under applicable laws and regulations.

Assessing the Challenge to Maine’s Ranked-Choice Voting System for Congressional Elections

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar discusses a legal challenge to Maine’s Ranked-Choice Voting system, filed by a Republican incumbent and three Republican Maine voters following the November 2018 mid-term election. Amar breaks down the crux of the lawsuit while also unpacking the logistics of a rank order voting system like Maine’s. Providing examples of how rank order voting could work in presidential elections, Amar uses illustrations of past election results to highlight how their outcome might have differed under such a voting system while addressing such a system's limitations.

Replacing Justice Kennedy: Why Roe Won’t Be (Formally) Overruled, Same-Sex Marriage Rights Won’t Be Undone, and Affirmative Action Won’t Be Terminated, but Electoral Reform Could Suffer Greatly

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar argues that while Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the US Supreme Court will change the institution, it may not result in a significant shift to the right on some hot-button issues, as many anticipate. Amar explains that the greatest casualty of Justice Kennedy’s retirement might be electoral reform—not reproductive rights, same-sex marriage, or affirmative action.

How Do YOU Think About the Right to Vote?

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin comments on the US Supreme Court’s 5–4 decision in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, in which the Court upheld the legality of Ohio’s voter list maintenance procedure. Griffin explains some of the key points made in each of the four opinions and shares a deeply personal story about how she came to understand how seemingly innocuous list-maintenance laws like the one in this case disproportionately affect minorities, low-income people, the disabled, the homeless, and veterans—just as Justice Sotomayor described in her separate dissent.

What California Voters Should Focus on When Voting on Tim Draper’s “CAL 3” Initiative

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on Tim Draper’s proposal to divide California into three separate state. Amar describes what the proposal would do and provides three levels of hurdles that will (and Amar argues should) make the proposal a difficult sell, particularly among rational Democrats, who make up the majority of California voters.

Gerrymandering, Power Politics, and the Illusion of Democracy

George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan considers gerrymandering, particularly whether there are legal or constitutional limits on how far one party can go to marginalize and potentially destroy the other party. Buchanan explains how gerrymandering works and why it is such a troubling phenomenon in a democracy.

Is the Winner-Take-All Method States Use to Select Presidential Electors Legally Vulnerable?

In this second of a two-part series of columns, Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar evaluates the major constitutional and statutory voting rights claims asserted in the federal challenge to Texas’s use of the so-called Winner-Take-All approach to selecting the state’s representatives to the Electoral College. Amar explains why he finds both types of arguments set forth in the complaint largely unpersuasive.

2020 Presidential Election Legal Maneuvering: Prominent Lawyers and Law Professors File Lawsuit Challenging Winner-Take-All Method Used by Texas (and Most Other States) to Pick Presidential Electors

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on a lawsuit recently filed in Texas challenging the winner-take-all method by which Texas (and other states) administer presidential elections. Amar explains the benefits and drawbacks of the method and why the lawsuit is unlikely to elicit changes in Texas or elsewhere.

Why the Supreme Court Was Right to Stay out of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Districting Case, and Why State Courts Have Important Roles in this Arena

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar explains why the US Supreme Court was right to leave undisturbed the recent congressional redistricting ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Amar describes the important role (and limitations) of state courts and state legislative bodies in our federal system.

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

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

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.

Democratic Roulette: Can France’s Two-Round Presidential Election System Contain a Populist Revolt?

Guest columnist Dean Falvy, a lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law and attorney with an international business practice, comments on the upcoming presidential election in France. Falvy explains the French election process, the contenders for the presidency, and the high stakes of the election.

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

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.

Meet our Columnists
Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar, holds the James J. Freeland Eminent Scholar... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is the C.S. Wong Professor of Law at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973.... more

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He... more

Joanna L. Grossman
Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

MARCI A. HAMILTON is the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program Professor of Practice, and Fox Family... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

Lesley Wexler is a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately... more