Election Law

Resource Guide

After the close presidential election of 2000, many Americans have become increasingly aware of the courts’ role in the election process, whether it is due to disputes over civil rights, campaign finance laws and regulations, or ballot access issues. While the federal government plays a predominant role in the election process, this module is meant to provide information on the legal and governmental context of courts’ roles in elections.

Links to related online resources are listed below. Non-digitized publications may be borrowed from the NCSC Library; call numbers are provided.

Featured Links

Election Law Program.

Election Law Program Launched by William & Mary and National Center for State Courts.


Bill Raftery Trends: Close Up - Election 2016 and the Courts. (2016). With so much attention being paid to the 2016 presidential election, down-ballot items tend to be forgotten. However, ballot items in four states this November will have a direct impact on state courts. These proposals represent not just questions for voters in a particular year, but also broader discussions about how state courts operate, ranging from judicial age and capacity to the role of independently elected clerks of court.
Skaggs, Adam, Maria da Silva, and Linda Casey. The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2009-10: how special interest “super spenders” threatened impartial justice and emboldened unprecedented legislative attacks on America’s courts. (October 2011). Brennan Center for Justice.

The story of the 2009-10 elections, and their aftermath in state legislatures in 2011, reveals a coalescing national campaign that seeks to intimidate America’s state judges into becoming accountable to money and ideologies instead of the constitution and the law.

Brian Frederick and Matthew J. Streb. The Cost of Going for the Gavel: Individual Candidate Spending in Intermediate Appellate Court Elections. (2011). Justice System Journal 32, no.1.

This study probes patterns of spending by 470 candidates in all contested races for state immediate appellate court seats from 2000 to 2009. It makes the first comprehensive evaluation of the systematic factors that drive spending in lower-level judicial elections with the individual candidate as the unit of analysis. It explores several different explanations for variations in spending, as well.

Brian K. Arbour and Mark J. McKenzie. Campaign Messages in Lower-Court Elections After Republican Party of Minnesota vs. White. (2011). Justice System Journal 32, no.1.

Judicial scholars worry about the increasing use of attack advertising and hot-button issues in judicial elections. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White has the potential to exacerbate these trends. By surveying lower-court candidates across six states, the authors investigate whether these trends have reached lower-court elections. They also investigate the effects of the White decision by using the varying interpretations of White in these states.

Chris W. Bonneau, Melinda Gann Hall, and Matthew J. Streb. White Noise: The Unrealized Effects of Republic Party of Minnesota v. White on Judicial Elections. (2011). Justice System Journal 32, no.3.

Conventional wisdom states that White has heightened the politicization of judicial elections by facilitating expensive, below-the-belt exchanges that aharply attenuate the incumbency advantage and threaten the legitimacy of state courts.  The authors' primary assumption is that if White has had the presumed effects, then there should be measurable changes in key judicial election characteristics: an increased willingness of challenges to enter the electoral arena, decreased electoral support for incumbents, elevated costs of campaigns, and declines in voter participation.  Overall, the authors find no statistically discernable changes in state supreme courts or state intermediate appellate court elections on these dimensions.

Shauna Rielly and Carol Walker. State Judicial Elections' Impact on Participation in Direct Democracy. (2010). Justice System Journal 31, no.2.

This article examines how the presence of judicial elections on the ballot impacts voter participation on direct democracy measures affecting justice. Ballot roll-off occurs on judicial elections and direct democracy measures for similar reasons. The authors explore the linkage between judicial elections and direct democracy measures based on theory indicating that ballot measures affect other races on the ballot, particularly when these measures invoke specific issues and the impact of different selection methods on ballot roll-off.

David B. Rottman. The Changing Face of Judicial Elections: Can the Past Tell Us About the Future?. (2009). National Center for State Courts, Future Trends in State Courts 2009.

Trends in how judicial campaigns are conducted and in the methods by which states choose to select their judges merit close scrutiny.

C. Scott Peters. Campaigning for State Supreme Court, 2006. (2008). Justice System Journal 29, no.2.

This article reports the result of a survey of candidates who ran in partisan and nonpartisan state supreme court elections in 2006.  This study provides information regarding how supreme court candidates' campaign organizations are integrated with parties or interest groups, and how they communicate with voters.

Bircher, Elizabeth Election Law Manual. (Spring 2008). Williamsburg, VA: College of William and Mary School of Law and the National Center for State Courts This manual provides a basic overview of election law in the United States, focusing on state election law.  Topics addressed include federal regulation of state and local electoral practices; state regulation of candidacies and candidate ballot access; state regulations that affect political parties; state regulation of voters; state regulation of ballot measures; election administration; election day; canvassing, certification and recounts; election contests; statutes of limitations and laches; and extraordinary and equitable relief.  (KF4886 .Z95 E44 2008) 
Perez, Myrna. Voter Purges. (2008). Brennan Center for Justice, New York University School of Law This report discusses voter purges among the states, includes reasons for which registered voters are purged from election rolls, problems that occur, and policy recommendations to address these issues.  The appendices also include several state case studies of voter purging practices.   
Recent Voter Suppression Incidents. (October 2008). Brennan Center for Justice, New York University School of Law This state-by-state report discusses activities that tend to suppress the right to vote, and is regularly updated through Election Day, November 4, 2008.  Issues covered include no match, no vote; voter purges; voter challenges; technical barriers; student voting barriers; voter registration access; intimidation and deceptive practices; and poor ballot design.
David B. Rottman. Campaign Oversight Committee and the Challenge of Perpetuating Ethical Judicial Elections. (2007). Justice System Journal 28, no.3.

This article contemplates the role and the contribution of judicial campaign oversight committees, in regards to upholding ethical conduct though the process of judicial elections and historical examples of how these committees have participated in the past.

Foley, Edward B. Election Law at the High Court: Big Cases Leave Little Footprints. (August 2006). Law.com Analyzes the trilogy of recent election-law cases.
Utah Voter Information Pamphlet. (2004). This voter information guide includes information about early and electronic voting.
Election Law Program. Created in 2005, the Election Law Program is a joint effort between NCSC and the Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary. The program seeks to provide practical assistance to state court judges who are called on to resolve difficult election disputes.
<i>League of Latin American Citizens v. Perry</i>. 126 S. Ct. 2594 (2006) This case regards Texas redistricting.
<i>Randall v. Sorrell</i>. 126 S. Ct. 2479 (2006) This case invalidates Vermont's campaign contributions limits. 

Federal Election Laws

Greenhouse, Linda, and David R. Kirkpatrick. Justices Loosen Ad Restrictions in Campaign Finance Law. (June 2007). New York Times This article discusses the possible implications of the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision for allowing exceptions to the advertising restrictions in the McCain-Feingold law.
Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. Federal Election Commission On March 27, 2002, President Bush signed into law the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), Public Law No. 107-155.  The BCRA contains many substantial and technical changes to the federal campaign finance law.  The Commission's implementation of BCRA included rulemakings regarding soft money, civil penalties, and inaugural committees. 
Campaign Finance Law Resources. Federal Election Commission This site provides links to financial disclosure forms filed by congressional and presidential campaigns, data regarding which PACs contributed money to which campaigns, and other relevant information to campaign financing. 
Election of Senators and Representatives. The United States code for the election procedures for United States senators and representatives. 
Election Reform Information Project. The Election Reform Information Project has the nation’s only nonpartisan, nonadvocacy Web site providing up-to-the-minute news and analysis on election reform. The site serves policymakers, officials, journalists, scholars, and concerned citizens and provides a centralized source of data and information in the face of decentralized reform efforts for everyone with an interest in the issue.
Federal Election Commission. This site provides information regarding campaign finance reports and data, minutes of commission meetings, press releases, and general overviews of campaign finance laws and regulations.
Help America Vote Act of 2002. U.S. Department of Justice This site explains the language of the Help America Vote Act of 2002. The act was intended to create a new federal agency to serve as a clearinghouse for election administration information, provide funds to states to improve election administration and replace outdated voting systems, and create minimum standards for states to follow in several key areas of election administration.
National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials and Clerks. NACRC is a professional organization of elected and appointed county administrative officials who share information and ideas. As an affiliate of the National Association of County Officials (NACO), this Web site posts legislative updates on pending matters of national significance. The NACRC attempts to modernize records and meet new election standards, as well as provide links to leading vendors.
National Association of State Election Directors. This site provides information about membership, activities, and upcoming conferences. 
National Voter Registration Act of 1993. U.S. Department of Justice The NVRA allows the Department of Justice to bring civil actions in federal court to enforce its requirements. The act also gives the responsibility to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to provide states with guidance on the act, to develop a national mail voter registration form, and to compile reports on the effectiveness of the act. 
United States Commission on Civil Rights. This site provides information regarding civil right aspects of the Voting Rights and Reauthorization Act, as well as other aspects of civil rights in a citizen's right to vote.
United States Election Assistance Commission. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) was established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). The commission serves as a national clearinghouse and resource for information and review of procedures with respect to the administration of federal elections. The site also provides election-survey results, advice on election processes in each state, and up-to-date news on election commissions.  
Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act. U.S. Department of Justice This guide provides an overview of federal civil-rights laws that ensure equal opportunity for people with disabilities.
Voting Rights Act of 1965.


The Voting Rights Act codifies and effectuates the 15th Amendment's permanent guarantee that, throughout the nation, no person shall be denied the right to vote on account of race or color. In addition, the Act contains several special provisions that impose even more stringent requirements in certain jurisdictions throughout the country.

Government Agencies