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.
In this second of a series of columns, Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone continue their discussion of a federal lawsuit challenging Mississippi’s scheme for electing governors. Amar and Mazzone examine a few important procedural and jurisdictional issues the lawsuit presents, specifically, why the plaintiffs have standing to sue in federal court and what remedies a federal court might provide if it agrees with the plaintiffs on the merits.
In this first of a 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.