William and Mary Law School

Election Law Courses at William & Mary

Overview

William & Mary Law School offers students a range of course options in Election Law. While some courses happen on campus, we also run one-credit "mini-courses" at William & Mary's Washington, DC office in DuPont Circle. This alllows us to draw on the talents of a wide range of prominent election experts in Washington. This fall, the Program offers a basic course in Election Law taught by William & Mary's Professor Rebecca Green and a course in Post-Election Litigation taught by recount lawyer Marc Elias of Perkins Coie.

The Program also offers summer courses in its DC office for students living or working in the DC area. Summer 2013 features Advocacy Regulation, taught by the General Counsel of a prominent government affairs strategy and management firm, Josh Rosenstein.

Course Summaries, Spring 2015, and 2015-16:

Advocacy Regulation, Prof. Josh Rubenstein

Law 375

Summer 2015  (1 credit) (in DC)

This course will introduce students to the legal regulation of efforts to influence government action in our democracy, focusing on the interrelated legal regimes governing ethics of public officials, lobbying and contributions and spending of money in connection with political campaigns. A key goal of the course will be to enable students to gain some appreciation of the difficulty and complexity of the issues raised by the attempt, in fashioning these legal regimes, to balance the goal of curbing corruption and improper influence with the need to permit the legitimate advocacy and expression of views that is protected by the First Amendment, to some degree, and that is desirable in any event in a vibrant democracy.

Election Law, Prof. Rebecca Green 

Law 398

Fall 2015 (3 credits)

This course will examine the laws that govern the political process in the United States. Topics will include the right to vote, political representation, election administration, political parties, ballot initiatives, and campaign finance. The goal of the course is to provide students with a solid foundation in the basic principles of election law in this country

IRS Regulation of Political and Issue Speech, Prof. Jason Torchinsky

Law 329

Fall 2015 (1 credit)

September 13, October 18 from 9:00 am – 2:00 pm in Washington, DC; September 24 in the Faculty Room at the Law School from 6-8:30 PM

This one credit course will introduce students to the growing involvement of the IRS in policing, regulating, limiting and controlling political and issue speech by a wide range of non-profit organizations.  The course aims to educate students on the current state of the IRS’ regulatory approach in this area and to discuss where further development might be expected.  The course will include discussion of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in the Citizens United case, IRS regulations and proposed rules, as well as other current litigation in this area.  Students’ grade will be based on a short (10-12 pages) paper commenting on an aspect of the IRS’ proposed regulations. The paper will require the student to take and defend a position on a part of that proposed rule.  Attendance at all three classes is mandatory and class participation may be taken into account in adjusting a student’s final grade.

International Election Principles, Prof. Jack Young 

Law 381

Spring, 2015 (1 credit) (Jan. 24 and Mar. 21 in DC, Feb. 11 in Williamsburg)

The purpose of this course is to examine international election standards based on the rule of law. The ultimate goal is to establish knowledgeable, predictable, rule-based decision-making that limits the power entrusted to government officials, while concurrently encouraging the widest development of democratic systems. The course will cover each step in the electoral process: (1) recognition of political parties and which candidates will be qualified to stand for election; (2) voter registration including registration, maintenance of lists, grounds for suspension and reinstatement; (3) absentee ballots, if they are to be used, as well as the procedures for their issuance and as to their counting;(4) early voting and remote voting if it is accepted as a means of increasing participation; (5) ballots, ballots design, machinery, pre-vote verification, the observation of that process so that it is transparent, ballot collection, computerized and other mechanical voting systems, ballot audits, physical security, and the availability of election day remedies; (6) verification of who is, and is not, a voter; (7) the conduct of the election itself, including how officials are trained and qualified; (8) the process for recounts; (9) the process for challenges and contests; and, (10) administration and supervision applying objective standards. Each of these steps will involve the class in a discussion of the development of concrete standards for the international community to apply in the election process.

This course will be a two day seminar that will be held at the school's Washington D.C. campus. The course will be held on two Saturdays. The class will be one credit and requires participation and attendance and a short paper.

Campaign Finance, Prof. Neil Reiff

Law 393

Spring, 2015 (1 credit) (in DC)(Dates TBD)

The purpose of this course is to examine the evolution of the Buckley v. Valeo framework used to resolve campaign finance cases. The ultimate goal is to give students a working knowledge of the likely application of this framework today based on its creation and historical use. This one credit course will be a survey of the constitutional issues surrounding modern campaign finance law. The course will track the changes in the First Amendment doctrine used by the Supreme Court as it has evolved from Buckley v. Valeo in 1976 through more recent developments in such cases as Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. This survey will analyze the Court's approaches to the cases by discussing the framework created by the Buckley case and how it has affected jurisprudence in this area since this landmark case. Emphasis will be given to the standards of review utilized by the Court in subsequent cases, how the change in Court's makeup has affected Buckley's progeny. Finally, we will discuss whether the original framework created by the Buckley case is still viable. In that regard, we will discuss how developments in the 2008 election and other pending challenges to campaign finance laws may be analyzed by Court in the future.

This course will be a two day seminar that will be held at the school's Washington D.C. campus. The course will be held on two Saturdays (dates TBA). The class will be one credit and pass/fail, requiring participation, attendance, and a short paper. There is no prerequisite for this course, though basic familiarity with campaign finace or Professor Green's election law course will be very helpful.

Election Law Practicum, Challenges of the General Counsel, Prof. Josh Rosenstein

Spring 2015 (Feb. 28 and Apr. 4 in DC, Mar. 17 in Williamsburg)

Taught by former General Counsel to one of the country’s leading lobbying firms, this unique course will explore the fundamental and overlapping roles played by lawyers who work in-house at companies, political parties, and other entities (campaigns, etc.), including the roles of legal technician, wise counselor and lawyer as leader. The course will address the conflicting concerns faced by these in-house practitioners by examining a series of cases. The "cases" in this course involve questions beyond issues of the legal requirements and delve into larger issues of policy and politics, by using specific illustrations drawn from the political and business world --e.g. the 1990s Chinese donors scandal faced by the Democratic Party; sexual harassment allegations levied against major political candidates; bribery and corruption scandals faced by Greenberg Traurig in the wake of allegations against Jack Abramoff; etc. These cases involve a broad range of considerations: risk management, public policy, politics, and reputation.  For each case the students will be given the factual scenario, reports from the media, and other background materials.  The students will be directed to issue spot and research the implicated laws.  The students will come prepared to discuss not only the scenario itself and thelaws implicated, but also appropriate responses by General Counsels to each scenario. Former and current in-house counsel will guest lecture to provide insight and guidance to students. The class is pass/fail and is capped at nine students.

Previous Course Offerings:

Advanced Election Law, Prof. Marc Elias

Spring 2015 (dates TBD)

This course, taught by Marc Elias who is one of the country’s most respected election attorneys and partner at Perkins Coie in Washington, DC, will examine advanced topics in election law taught by a practitioner in the field looking to teach students how election attorneys approach litigating and representing clients in day-to-day practice. Students in this course will be required to read a series of full, un-edited cases for each subject covered. Specific topics will include state versus federal powers in elections; individual rights versus state rights in elections; equal protection/due process claims since Bush v. Gore; photo ID controversies; regulation of money in elections; and disclosure/privacy in elections. Election Law Survey is a prerequisite for this course (or with permission from the instructor). Grades will be determined on the basis of class participation (10%) and a 20-25 page paper (90%).

Presidential Public Financing, Prof. Michael Toner

Taught by leading election attorney Michael Toner of Wiley Rein, this course will examine the presidential public financing system which finds itself at an historic crossroads: With President Obama’s decision to turn down public funds for the 2008 general election, and become the first presidential candidate since Watergate to privately finance his entire campaign, many election law scholars and practitioners believe that the presidential public financing system is broken. However, President Obama, along with Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold, have supported past proposals to overhaul and modernize the system. This course will analyze the presidential public financing system, the regulations and restrictions that apply to candidates who accept public funds, and court decisions that have addressed the constitutionality of the presidential public funding system. We will also study various legislative proposals to overhaul the presidential public financingsystem and will debate whether there should be a presidential public financing system at all in the 21st century. The course will emphasize the unique blend of legal, constitutional, political, and public policy issues that influence contemporary debates about the future of the presidential public financing system.