ACS Election Guide

The American Constitution Society has prepared the following Election Guide, which provides a brief summary of the positions of the candidates in tomorrow’s election for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and the House of Delegates (64th District).

As a nonpartisan organization, ACS does not endorse or take a position on any candidate, but we hope this guide will be helpful to you as you make your choices tomorrow.

ACS Election Guide (click to download) (PDF)

Published in: on November 2, 2009 at 10:19 am Comments Off on ACS Election Guide

McDonnell: Scholar…Governor…Both…Neither…?

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell is confronting a particularly tricky political opponent: himself. Twenty years ago, at the age of 34, McDonnell wrote an academic thesis titled “The Republican Party’s Vision for the Family: The Compelling Issues of the Decade.” Among other gender-based policy topics, his thesis opposed federal tax credits for child care expenditures, because the credits encouraged women to enter the workforce, and criticized a Supreme Court decision that legalized contraception for unmarried couples.

McDonnell’s past writings and current candidacy provoke an interesting question: Should we judge political candidates by their decades-old academic views? McDonnell claims that many of the views he expressed in his thesis have changed, in light of his growing family, his work experience, and his legislative activities. He no longer believes that family stability depends on women being excluded from the workforce, but he does still support an especially controversial position in the paper: that marriage should be heterosexual.


Published in: on September 21, 2009 at 7:31 am Comments Off on McDonnell: Scholar…Governor…Both…Neither…?

2008: The Year of the Young Voter (Revisited)

Young voters were an important factor in the 2008 election outcome.  Official results are forthcoming, but Rock the Vote reports that an estimated 54.5 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds turned out last Tuesday.  This was an increase of nearly six percent from 2004 and almost 15 percent from 2000.  A record 24 million young people cast votes, comprising 18 percent of the overall electorate.  Consistent with polling figures, 66 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds nationwide voted for president-elect Barack Obama.  Young voters’ strong preference for Obama had a significant impact on close races in several battleground states, including Virginia.

Here in Williamsburg, students contributed heavily to increased voter turnout.  In the Stryker Precinct – where the majority of W&M students vote – turnout increased more than 1,600 votes, from 2,144 in 2004 to 3,803 in 2008.  Overall voter turnout in Stryker was just over 80* percent.

Why the significant increase in Williamsburg voter turnout?  Following an extensive three-year voters’ rights campaign, William & Mary students were permitted to register at their campus addresses for the first time beginning last fall.  In 2004, the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia filed a lawsuit on behalf of three W&M students who had been denied the right to register to vote in Williamsburg because the local registrar considered them “temporary” residents.  The registrar eventually allowed the students to register, and the case was dismissed.  Students living in campus dormitories still faced the challenge of establishing physical addresses.  In response, William & Mary student Matt Beato created a web program that enabled students to register by converting campus addresses into physical addresses.


Published in: on November 11, 2008 at 7:31 pm Comments Off on 2008: The Year of the Young Voter (Revisited)

Guns n’ Taxes

After stumbling on a recent news story about concealed weapons in restaurants, I decided to do a little digging on Virginia’s gun control laws. On March 4, Governor Kaine vetoed a Virginia state bill that would have allowed people to carry concealed weapons into restaurants that serve alcohol. Currently, it is only legal to carry a concealed weapon in an alcohol-free restaurant in Virginia. I did not know that it was legal to carry concealed guns into restaurants at all, and this got me wondering about Virginia’s other gun regulations.

If I wanted to, could I buy a gun and carry it into a restaurant today? To buy a rifle or a shotgun here, I would have to be at least 18 years old. To buy a handgun from a licensed firearms dealer, I have to be 21 years old. Check. I can buy a rifle, a shotgun, or a handgun. Since it would be pretty hard to conceal a rifle or shotgun before walking into my hypothetical restaurant, we’ll assume I’m buying a handgun. Because I’m in Virginia, I don’t have to register the gun. Virginia gun-owners only have to register machine guns. Interesting. How about this: what If I want more than one gun? Since I probably can’t conceal a rifle or shotgun, and I can’t get a machine gun without registering it, can I buy more than one handgun at a time? No, I have to wait 30 days between handgun purchases. What if I want to carry my new handgun other places? How about into church? I can carry my gun into a place of worship in Virginia, but only if I have a “good and sufficient reason.” This is only a sampling of some of Virginia’s gun regulations. As a non-gun owner, I found it enlightening to peruse the state’s concealed weapon code.

Many competent gun owners will tell you they feel safer with their concealed weapons. I even know a woman in another state who brings her gun to church regularly. However, the potential harm of carrying a concealed weapon into an establishment that serves alcohol seems to vastly outweigh the potential benefits. In 2005, there were 12,000 reported homicides by gun in the United states, and nearly 53,000 emergency room visits involving gun shot wounds. These numbers may seem small compared to the total U.S. population, but think about this: A study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1999 concluded that gunshot injuries in the United States in 1994 produced $2.3 billion in lifetime medical costs. Guess who pays a lot of those costs? Taxpayers. We paid approximately half that $2.3 billion through Medicaid, Medicare, worker’s compensation, and other government programs. Not only does Governor Kaine’s veto of concealed weapon bill promote the safety of police officers and late night bar patrons, it might also save us all some money. April 15 is coming fast.


Published in: on March 17, 2008 at 11:25 pm Comments Off on Guns n’ Taxes

VA Attorney General Bob McDonnell Visits W&M

Virginia Attorney General, Bob McDonnell, visited William & Mary School of Law earlier today and spoke to The Federalist Society and guests. Although ACS and I have some strong ideological differences with AG McDonnell, he should be commended for staying relatively non-partisan in his lecture.

AG McDonnell touched on a variety of topics, and also spoke about what aroused his political interest. As a former prosecutor, he felt that in the late 80s and early 90s that too much attention was being paid to the needs of criminals, while not enough attention was being paid to victims.

Prior to discussing specific issues and the things that are occurring these days in the Virginia legislature, the AG also spent some time discussing his political philosophy. His philosophy really focuses on paying a great deal of attention to the 9th and 10th Amendments to the Constitution, and his belief that powers not expressly given to the federal government are definitely best left to the states. This is not a novel concept but it provides insight into his view of why government should be smaller than it currently is.


Published in: on February 27, 2008 at 9:03 pm Comments Off on VA Attorney General Bob McDonnell Visits W&M


William & Mary’s Board of Visitors recently decided not to renew President Nichol’s contract. As a result of their actions, President Nichol resigned from his position. I am no stranger to heavy-handed and ill-informed decisions passed by a Board of Visitors. I attended Virginia Tech when its Board of Visitors voted to dismantle affirmative action.

In 2003, Virginia Tech’s Board of Visitors decided to disallow preferences for underrepresented groups in admissions and hiring for the university. This decision was a reaction to a memorandum distributed by Virginia’s then attorney general Jerry Kilgore. Kilgore’s memo claimed that affirmative action was being challenged in the Supreme Court (Grutter v. Bollinger), and if the plaintiff was successful, Virginia public institutions utilizing affirmative action would possibly be subject to litigation. It is a shame that such legal “wisdom” would come from an alumnus of William & Mary’s Marshall-Wythe School of Law. However, this scare tactic was enough to give the rector of Virginia Tech’s BOV, John G. Rocovich Jr., the excuse he needed to carry out his agenda.

On March 10, 2003 the BOV held a closed session meeting in which they decided to rid the university of affirmative action. The decision was a shock to much of the university, and even members of the board. Some members stated that they were told no pertinent issues would be discussed during the closed session. Of those that attended, multiple members stated that they were not told that there were other legal interpretations or other options available. In the end, Virginia Tech was the only state institution that decided to abide by Kilgore’s memo.


Published in: on February 20, 2008 at 11:29 pm Comments Off on A POV on BOVs

Senate Immunizes Warrantless Wiretapping

Jim Webb, John Warner, and a supermajority of the Senate (68-29), just sold you out. The Senate just passed a bill which would excuse the telecommunications companies for violating the rights that same Senate conferred upon you. Make no mistake, there hasn’t been the slightest suggestion that what they did was legal. Rather, those supporting retroactive immunity for the telcoms suggest that they are entitled to break the law when they do so for the sake of national security. Specifically, when the government asks them to provide your private communications without even trying to get a warrant from a secret court, or complying with the already expansive powers conferred upon it following 9/11.


But the whole national security angle is a farce — the President vowed to veto the very legislation very that would give him access to FISA warrants unless it contained retroactive immunity for his cronies. It is, sadly, understandable, since the power to act outside the law is more valuable than the authority to act within its constraints, but the fact that every Republican senator was willing to wager (See “Update III”) the ability to obtain legal FISA warrants against the prospect of obtaining retroactive immunity for those who broke FISA should be inexcusable in a country that believe it is governed by laws, not men.


Published in: on February 14, 2008 at 2:45 pm Comments Off on Senate Immunizes Warrantless Wiretapping

Abercrombie & F#t@$

Lynnhaven Mall in Virginia Beach has long held a special place in my heart. Whether attending friends’ birthday parties at Aladdin’s Castle Arcade, or hitting up PG-13 movies at the old upstairs theater, Lynnhaven Mall has always been a place that Hampton Roads natives like myself have congregated. Historically, Virginia Beach has been a city without a traditional downtown center, and Lynnhaven Mall has frequently been the most happening place in the area on any given weekend.

And now Lynnhaven Mall has found itself in the national spotlight (thanks, Drudge). Police, responding to a few citizen complaints, entered the Abercrombie & Fitch store at the mall this weekend and took away two large black-and-white advertisements featuring models in various stages of undress (pictured above).

The store manager, who had been warned, was cited for violating City Code 22.31, a crime to display “obscene materials in a business that is open to juveniles.”


Published in: on February 4, 2008 at 12:44 pm Comments Off on Abercrombie & F#t@$

Guns and Virginia

This week, there was another disturbing reminder about the ease with which school shootings or public shootings can occur. The event reported on CNN is based out of Pennsylvania, where a boy has been questioned regarding communications that he had with another individual who killed eight people in Finland, before turning the gun on himself.

Here, in our own Virginia, people are still struggling to get over the shock of the murder of thirty-two students at Virginia Tech. Gun violence has been a long running and continues to be a prevalent problem in the United States. So, what’s the point of reminding everyone of these terrible and sad crimes? The point is to ask ourselves if we are taking the appropriate preventive measures to protect people from the wrath of those who want guns for terrible reasons.

Many people throughout the United States, and certainly in Virginia, take their 2nd Amendment “Right to Bear Arms”, very seriously. Before going further, I want to be clear on one point. I completely understand the healthy love that some people have for guns. Many, many people enjoy their firearms for safe purposes such as hunting each year. Many, many people like to have a gun as a last line of self-defense against an intruder. I understand and respect these individuals legal rights to own guns, use guns for self-defense, and enjoy guns for recreational and cultural purposes. Further, I strongly support and have no desire to take guns from these individuals.

Having said that, are we doing all we can to make sure that the right people have guns for these safe purposes? My main concern is that the background checks on people buying guns still seem to be rather flimsy. This is one of the most dangerous weapons in the world, why can’t people wait a little longer before getting them to make sure that some crazy or evil person doesn’t get their hands on a gun and cause the premature death of an innocent person?


Published in: on November 13, 2007 at 11:26 am Comments Off on Guns and Virginia

Granted Cert: Admissibility of Search Incident to Unlawful Arrest

Virginia law provides that an officer may not arrest someone detained for a misdemeanor, but must rather rely on a summons and release them. In this case David Moore was stopped on suspicion of driving on a suspended license, he was arrested, and in a subsequent search police found 16 grams of crack cocaine (an issue the Court will also take up this term, see here) and $516 in cash. A minority of state courts have held that when an arrest is unlawful under state law the exclusionary rule applies to bar any evidence resulting from the arrest and any incident search.

The underlying tension in this case is that the Fourth Amendment contains a standard of probable cause and reasonableness, while states like Virginia employ different standards in their courts. Some states argue that applying Fourth Amendment exclusionary principles on the (presumably) lesser standard provided by state law violates principles of federalism, and the idea that the Bill of Rights sets a baseline for protection. The obvious argument on the opposing side is that the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule is not a constitutional rule at all, but a policy rule designed to prevent abuse — as such, it does not offend federalism to apply the policy in whatever context the states are free to construct.

Moore also argues that the whole search-incident-to-arrest itself is an exception to the prohibition against warrantless searches that was explicitly limited to lawful arrests. The problem with this argument is that the justification for such searches had more to do with officer safety than satisfaction of warrant requirements, and that the Court has every reason to decide this because this was an “exception” to a prudential (as opposed to constitutional) rule, it was not an exception at all but the limits of the exclusionary rule’s policy.


Published in: on September 25, 2007 at 11:12 pm Comments Off on Granted Cert: Admissibility of Search Incident to Unlawful Arrest