The Voter’s Speakeasy featuring unbiased reporting and insight into life at Project Vote Smart from our staff, interns, and volunteers.

Wait, Are Salamanders Voting?

2016 September 28


As the 2016 general elections grow nearer, questions surface regarding voting rights and fairness, as is typical in election years. One element of elections that can alter voting fairness, and election results, is the drawing of district lines.  In response to one dispute on this topic, the US Supreme Court decided in late June to take on a case that may impact voters in two electoral districts in North Carolina.

Electoral districts are regions that organize votes during elections. Voters elect representatives from Congressional districts in each state to serve in the US House of Representatives. Districts for each state legislature are used to elect politicians into state governments. These districts are intended to ensure that citizens in every region of every state have adequate representation in both state and federal legislatures.

According to the US Constitution, each state is required to redraw its congressional districts every 10 years, following the census that the federal government conducts to count the country’s population. Each state is responsible for determining and implementing the method it will use to complete this task. For example, in April Illinois established a new plan to create a Senate Redistricting Commission and a House Redistricting Commission, with no more than 5 members of the same political party on each commission.

Various types of such commissions exist in different states, each with unique requirements. According to Professor Justin Levitt of Loyola Law School, several states have advisory commissions that make recommendations to the legislature regarding district boundaries.

The commissions created in ...

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Ballot Access Laws

2016 September 20

How did these candidates get on the ballot? Why are they in particular on the ballot, while others who may have been running don’t appear? For that matter, how do the candidates of the two major parties get on the ballot? The answers to these questions depend on your state’s ballot access laws.

“Blue Lives Matter” Bills

2016 September 14

On May 26, 2016, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed into law HB 953, or what media outlets are dubbing the “Blue Lives Matter” bill. The first of its kind, HB 953 prosecutes crimes against law enforcement and other first responders as hate crimes, increasing their penalties and punishments.

Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act

2016 September 09

 Widely considered the most significant financial regulatory reform since the Great Depression, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank) instantly became a debated political battle in Washington.

State Legislatures’ Reactions to Mass Shootings

2016 September 02

 Gun control will continue to be an emotionally charged topic as mass shootings are a major driver of the conversation.

Campaign Finance: Free Speech, or Another Platform for Corruption?

2016 August 31

 Each year, as billions of dollars are funneled into American elections, more and more questions continue to rise regarding not only the legality of these financial contributions, but also the true intentions behind them.

Legislative Activities: Renewable Energy Sources

2016 August 26

Use of renewable energy sources is definitely a contentious issue in some states, with some passing legislation, and other states’ governors taking things into their own hands and signing agreements having to do with energy.

Daily Fantasy Sports Regulation in State Legislatures

2016 August 18

Daily fantasy sports is a concept that is as tricky to say as it is to understand.  It exists in a legal gray area that has remained unregulated for years.  Recently, after several scandals that brought widespread public attention, legislators have attempted to define and regulate the practice.  

To Fly or Not to Fly: Current Legislation on Gun Sales

2016 August 16

 One of the most contentious issues in 2016 has been the question of gun control.

Where Does the Death Penalty Stand in 2016?

2016 August 12

The death penalty has been a hotly debated topic for centuries, but just recently in 2016, it has for the first time in history become part of an official party platform - that of the Democratic Party, who supports abolishing it.

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