Austin Sarat—Associate Provost and Associate Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science at Amherst College—comments on efforts by Republicans in 32 states to restrict the ballot initiative and voter referendum processes—two key levers of direct democracy. Professor Sarat describes origins and development of these processes in our country and argues that the opportunity for citizens to vote directly on the policies that affect their lives is an important democratic tradition that must be preserved.
Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone argue that the U.S. Supreme Court correctly denied review last week of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decisions handed down before the 2020 election. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone explain why the majority denied review and point out that the dissenting opinions unwittingly demonstrate the rightness of the majority.
UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan points out that although Trump’s coup failed, Republicans now have in front of them all of the building blocks necessary to impose one-party rule in the United States within the next four years. In this first of a series of columns, Professor Buchanan describes but a few of the available options Republicans have to rig elections in their favor.
Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf describes what is at stake on Wednesday, January 6, when Congress meets in joint session to confirm Joe Biden’s election as President. Professor Dorf explains why, although Trump apparently lacks the majority necessary to invalidate a duly chose electoral slate, the stakes are still very high.
Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar explains why Georgia’s law allowing persons 75 years and older to get absentee ballots for all elections in an election cycle with a single request, while requiring younger voters to request absentee ballots separately for each election, is a clear violation of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment. Dean Amar acknowledges that timing may prevent this age discrimination from being redressed in 2020, but he calls upon legislatures and courts to understand the meaning of this amendment and prevent such invidious disparate treatment of voters in future years.
Amherst College Associate Provost Austin Sarat and attorney Daniel B. Edelman explain the important role of Democratic governors in preventing Republican state legislatures from stealing the election. Sarat and Edelman describe a “nightmare scenario” in which Republican legislatures may try to strip the electoral votes of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia, Arizona, and Nevada, leaving Biden with 232 electoral votes compared to Trump’s 306. The authors call upon the governors of those states to defend the integrity of their states’ election results, insist that there have been no “election failures,” and, if necessary, submit to Congress their own elector lists.
Dean Falvy, a lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, explains why federalism—the autonomy of the states in our country—has been a significant barrier to many of the authoritarian projects Trump has advanced or considered. Falvy argues that the same autonomy should prevent Trump from manipulating the election results decisively in his own favor.
UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan describes how the U.S. Supreme Court is readying itself to declare Trump the winner of the election. Professor Buchanan points out that no court acting in good faith would apply the text of the Constitution or existing Supreme Court precedents in a way that would allow any of this scheme to see the light of day, but based on what Justice Kavanaugh has written and what Justice Gorsuch strongly suggests, the Court might not even have that minimum amount of good faith.
Amherst College Associate Provost Austin Sarat and attorney Daniel B. Edelman argue that there is nothing the Supreme Court can do to prevent governors from certifying slates of electors that actually reflect the vote of the people in their states. Sarat and Edelman explain why Bush v Gore is both inapplicable, and by its own terms, never supposed to be used as precedent.
Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar describes an underappreciated influence of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—her carefully reasoned majority opinion in Arizona Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. As Dean Amar explains, in that case, Justice Ginsburg rejected nearly identical arguments to those relied on today in asking federal courts to challenge state courts’ and agencies’ rulings protecting the right of their citizens to vote as provided for under state statutes and constitutions.
In anticipation of a contested election outcome in November, Amherst College Associate Provost Professor Austin Sarat and attorney Daniel B. Edelman call upon Democratic governors to forward a slate of electors that reflects the preference of the greatest number of voters in their states, regardless of what their legislatures might do. Sarat and Edelman argue that the fate of American democracy may depend on these governors.
Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar reflects on three writings by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that he finds himself most drawn to. Amar describes these writings as addressing ideas central to our form of democratic government, namely popular sovereignty, equal voting access, and judicial deference to Congress on policies involving the entire nation.
Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on a recent decision by a divided three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit holding that a Texas vote-by-mail law that prefers people who are 65 or older does not violate the Twenty-Sixth Amendment of the federal Constitution. Amar explains why the decision is “deeply misguided” and runs counter to the clear words of the Constitution.
In this second of a two-part series of columns about the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in the “faithless elector cases, Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar describes some good news that we may glean from those cases. Specifically, Amar points out that states have many ways of reducing elector faithlessness, and he lists three ways in which the Court’s decision paves the way for advances in the National Popular Vote (NPV) Interstate Compact movement.
In this first of a two-part series of columns about the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in the “faithless elector” cases, Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar expresses disappointment that the majority opinion—authored by Justice Elena Kagan—and concurring opinion—by Justice Clarence Thomas—are not as well reasoned or careful as they could be. Amar points out some of the ways in which the opinions fall short, noting some of the arguments that merited more discussion, or at least more thorough consideration.
Austin Sarat—Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty, and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College—argues that disenfranchising felons, as most American states do in some way, does substantial harm to everyone in our democracy. Sarat praises a recent decision by a federal district court in Florida striking down a state law requiring people with serious criminal convictions to pay court fines and fees before they can register to vote, but he cautions that but much more needs to be done to ensure that those who commit serious crimes can exercise one of the essential rights of citizenship.
Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone comment on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent per curiam decision staying an injunction by a federal district court in Wisconsin, effectively allowing the election in that state to go forward on with the normal timeline for casting ballots in place, despite concerns over the effects of COVID-19. Amar and Mazzone argue that, while the outcome might have been unjust, the plaintiffs in that case likely did not allege a constitutional violation and thus did not properly allege claims suitable to be remedied in federal court.
Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the recent per curiam opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court effectively requiring that in-person voting in the Wisconsin primary election go as scheduled and without deadline extension for mail-in ballots, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Dorf argues that the decision is the result of partisan politics and petty sticklerism in the Court and will unnecessarily endanger the lives of voting citizens.
UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan considers whether (and how) President Trump or his supporters in Congress could cancel the 2020 elections, citing public safety as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Buchanan points out that because states control the procedures for the election, Trump would need Republican governors of certain blue states to shut down their state’s elections—something Buchanan stops short of saying is likely or unlikely.
In this third of a series of columns on a legal challenge to Mississippi’s method of selecting governors, Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone discuss the merits of the challenge, with a particular focus on the plaintiffs’ contention that the method violates the one-person, one-vote principle enshrined in the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Amar and Mazzone discuss the relevant precedents and argue that based on those precedents, the challenge has solid legal ground on which to proceed.