Courts play a vital role in the U.S. electoral process. Judges are often asked to resolve cases concerning the functioning of U.S. democracy. Courts must decide issues of ballot access, election management, voting rights disputes, and many more. When legal challenges arise, it is imperative that judges have access to accurate and reliable information about the operation of complex state election laws as they navigate the political thicket such cases, by definition, entail.
Created in 2005 as a joint venture of the National Center for State Courts and the Law School at the College of William & Mary, the Election Law Program (ELP) seeks to provide practical assistance to judges called upon to resolve difficult election law disputes. The ELP offers paid fellowships to William & Mary Law School students who assist in this vital work, helping create resources for judges about the electoral process.
The ELP has a number of ongoing projects students play a critical role in developing. The Program's Election Law Manual, updated in 2022 but first published in 2008, provides a comprehensive overview of election law topics and judicial relief available. The Program is currently developing an "eBenchbook" — an online resource aimed at creating a complete, up-to-date repository of all 50 states' election codes and regulations with supplementary materials to enrich judges' understanding of how election codes operate and are interpreted within their state. The ELP is also developing a judicial orders database to provide judges examples of judicial orders resolving common election issues in their state.
In addition to these long-term projects, the Program strives to create responsive materials to the ever-changing election law landscape. To this end, the ELP produces papers on salient election law topics and special reports on election law issues, which fellows assist in researching, writing, and developing. The ELP regularly collaborates with the Carter Center and the National Conference of State Legislatures to produce reports, including a 2019 report on the legal landscape of election emergencies and a forthcoming project to examine state laws governing election observation. Additionally, the Program produces a series of web-based lectures designed to educate about the fundamentals of election law. The Program regularly adds to its collection.
The ELP also works closely with its student arm, the William & Mary Election Law Society to run an Election Law Speaker series bringing prominent election lawyers and scholars to campus and planning other events throughout the academic year. Each year, the Society and Program host a symposium addressing a timely election law topic. For information about the annual symposium series, and speaker events, see the ELP News & Activities page. The Election Law Society also provides opportunities for students to get involved with election law, research, and local elections. More can be found about this organization, its sister organizations ASAP and Revive My Vote, and how students can get involved on the side page.
*Featured Image (top of page): Levar Stoney, the youngest person and the first African American to ever hold the office of Secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia (now serves as Mayor of Richmond), speaking about the state of voting rights removal and restoration policies in the Commonwealth on February 19th, 2015.