Regulating Elections in the United States

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Experts explore recent regulatory developments in election and campaign finance law.

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The right to free and fair elections is a core tenant of American democracy. But what precisely does “free and fair” mean in 2021?

In the past year, 18 states have passed more than 30 laws that place new restrictions access to the ballot box. Some of these laws impose heightened voter ID mandates, while others make it harder for voters to request or drop off mail ballots. In contrast, 25 other states have passed laws that expand voting access, including by increasing early voting opportunities, providing for automatic voter registration, and eliminating limitations on voting by mail. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued several recent decisions with important implications for voting rights and electoral districting.

Against this backdrop, The Regulatory Review has invited thought leaders to comment on these recent legal developments by analyzing trends in state and federal election laws and offering recommendations for future reform efforts. The Regulatory Review hopes that this series will shed light on the expansive role that law plays in regulating the electoral process.

The contributors to this series are: Richard Briffault, Columbia Law School; Andrew Garber, Brennan Center for Justice; James A. Gardner, University of Buffalo School of Law; David Schultz, Hamline University; Joshua Sellers, Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law; Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, Stetson University College of Law and the Brennan Center for Justice; Doug Spencer, University of Colorado Law School; and Will Wilder, Brennan Center for Justice.

Brnovich and Its Implications

September 20, 2021 | Joshua Sellers, Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law

The Supreme Court’s decision in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee signals a new era of restrictive voting laws. 

The False Flag of Political Accountability in Election Reform

September 21, 2021 | Doug Spencer, University of Colorado Law School 

Some state lawmakers aim to give elected officials control over election administration and outcomes.

A Voting Rights Faustian Bargain

September 22, 2021 | David Schultz, Hamline University 

Democrats should accept voter ID in exchange for Republican support of national voting standards.

Red State Lawmakers Preempt Campaign Finance Laws in Blue Cities

September 23, 2021 | Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, Stetson University College of Law and the Brennan Center for Justice 

Republican states with major Democratic metropolitan centers are forestalling local efforts to reform election law.

Election Officials as Regulators of Voting Access

September 24, 2021 | Andrew Garber and Will Wilder, Brennan Center for Justice 

Legislative backlash against election officials poses serious implications for democracy.

The Promise and Peril of Local Election Administration

September 27, 2021 | Richard Briffault, Columbia Law School

Local election officials played a critical role in facilitating free and fair elections in 2020.

Only Federal Regulation Can Ensure Fair Elections 

September 28, 2021 | James A. Gardner, University of Buffalo School of Law

Congress should use its constitutionally granted authority to regulate elections and protect democracy.