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By Michael D. Hernandez

Courts will likely play a key role in settling election policy disputes, updating voting rolls will remain a challenge and state legislators will face a new wave of elections reforms.

Those predictions helped launch NCSL’s Fall Forum on Tuesday in Washington, D.C., as elections experts discussed what they expect to see in 2014.

Ned Foley blog
Ned Foley

The courts could become increasingly suspicious of the growing partisanship that has helped shape the election process, said Ned Foley, a professor at the Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law. 

He said judges may step in to curtail the trend of lawmakers extracting partisan advantages as they craft elections policy.

Rebecca Green, a professor at William & Mary Law School, said many court decisions the past decade had signaled an allowance for partisan behavior in the country’s elections process but that stance appears to be ending.

Beyond those divisive issues, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s John Fortier said lawmakers could unite behind reforms such as making voter registration more efficient and ensuring voting rolls are accurate.

Fortier added that additional reforms could take shape when the Presidential Commission on Election Administration releases its findings and recommendations for improving the voting process. Those findings will come in the next few months.

Alysoun McLaughlin, the deputy election director for Montgomery County in Maryland, said lawmakers must consider how their decisions to change or reform the elections process will play out, especially for the local election officials.

Simply applying a best practice learned from another community does not ensure that an unintended consequence—such as an increase in the cost for holding an electionwill occur, she said.

The panel ended the session by offering lawmakers several takeaways.

Green said people crafting election policy should seek out the advice of election administrators and should plan far out in advance of burgeoning elections issues. Fortier stressed the importance of upgrading voter registration systems. Foley warned lawmakers that many voting machines are nearing their end and will need to be replaced, while McLaughlin focused on voter education as a way to improve turnout.

Michael D. Hernandez is an NCSL elections policy specialist and may be reached at michael.hernandez@ncsl.org

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.

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