William and Mary Law School

Election Law Society Educates Lawyers and Students Alike about Voting Laws

 Professor Neal Devins, at left, moderated the society's inaugural symposium on money and the 2008 elections. Participants included, from left, Jason Torchinsky '01, former deputy general counsel to Bush-Cheney '04, Professor Allison Hayward of George Mason University, and Neil Reiff, deputy general counsel to the Democratic National Committee.

In fall 2006, students at William & Mary Law School founded the Election Law Society. The society is dedicated to exposing law students to the growing field of election law, both through speakers and classes. It also serves the community by acting as a local resource on election information and election law.

According to Jeff Palmore '09, Election Law Society president, the group has three goals. First, it brings in speakers to talk about election law. Second, it fosters discussions among law students about election law. Third, it works to build the election law curriculum at William & Mary.

The society's overall goal, Palmore said, is to "make William & Mary a leader in developing election lawyers."

Palmore cited the growing demand for election lawyers in Washington, D.C., and around the country as a motivating force for the society.

The society has hosted a variety of speakers since its founding, including former Chair of the Federal Elections Commission Michael Toner and Deputy General Counsel to the Republican National Committee Neil Reiff. Most recently, it hosted blogger and George Mason University Professor Allison Hayward who discussed campaign finance regulations with a focus on the ramifications of "bundling" donations.

The society will present a symposium on February 21 titled "2008, 2012, and Beyond: The Future of the Presidential Nomination Process." The symposium is co-sponsored by the Institute of Bill of Rights Law and the Election Law Program and builds on the society's success with its inaugural 2007 symposium on the impact of money on the 2008 elections.

In addition to the society's extracurricular work, it also has worked with the administration to expand the election law curriculum. For instance, it lobbied the administration to add a course on Campaign Finance, taught by Reiff, the former DNC counsel. It also worked to have added a one-credit seminar entitled "Law of Presidential Elections" that will meet two Saturdays in Washington, D.C. According to Palmore, it took just 20 minutes for the seminar to fill.

Palmore noted that in addition to the society's work to develop election lawyers on campus, the society seeks to fulfill the Law School's citizen-lawyer ideal through public service.

For example, the society held a voter registration drive in fall 2007 that collected over one hundred voter registration applications. Most recently, in conjunction with the William & Mary Student Assembly, the society staffed VOTEline, a non-partisan voter assistance line.

According to Palmore, voters from Williamsburg to Norfolk called with questions about where to vote, what documents to take to the polls, and to report problems they experienced while voting.

"Election law is an important and growing field in the legal community," Palmore said. "Through the Election Law Society, we hope to foster discussion of these hotly-contested legal and constitutional issues, but also help Marshall-Wythe develop future leaders in this field."