One Person, No Votes: Unopposed Candidate Statutes and the State of Election Law
71 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2017 Last revised: 19 Nov 2017
Date Written: April 18, 2017
In thirty-six states and the District of Columbia, state laws allow candidates running unopposed for certain offices to be “declared elected” without appearing on the ballot. These “unopposed candidate statutes” come in many varieties, but all deny people the ability to vote for the affected offices. This Article surveys the nation’s unopposed candidate statutes for the first time, exploring their idiosyncrasies and their interactions with other election laws. It then analyzes the statutes under four constitutional doctrines –– the Burdick right-to-vote doctrine; the congressional voting clauses; one person, one vote; and the Guarantee Clause –– showing how the statutes illuminate, and could change, the scope of each. Finally, the Article uses unopposed candidate statutes as a lens through which to examine two major debates in election law: whether courts should focus on encouraging competitiveness, and whether the purpose of voting is tabulative or expressive. Across both doctrine and theory, these unusual laws force us to reconsider our approach to the act of voting, stripped of its ability to affect the outcome of an election.
Keywords: voting, voting rights, Constitution, equal protection, Guarantee Clause, competitiveness
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