This research guide is intended to provide law students with information and links to useful primary and secondary resources on election law at both the federal and Washington state levels. Election law encompasses a wide range of topics, including campaign finance, voting rights, redistricting, and election administration. If you have further research questions, please visit the Reference Office, email us, or call (206) 543-6794.
Note: BNA, HeinOnline, and LLMC Digital are UW Restricted sources. Westlaw is available to people with individual subscriptions.
Each branch of the federal government has influenced the contours of election law. Bear in mind that some portions of the United States Constitution limit congressional actions, as many cases discuss.
The United States Code (U.S.C.) contains a number of statutes regarding election law. For some helpful statutory research pointers, see the Gallagher guide on Statutory Research Checklist.
If you know the name of an Act, you can search the a Popular Names Table to find Public Law and U.S. Code citations. These tables are also available in the print versions of the U.S. Code and through LexisNexis and Westlaw. As a general rule, legislation pertaining to campaign matters can be found in Title 2 and legislation pertaining to voting matters can be found in Title 42.
Here is a list of some of the major federal Acts related to election law to get you started:
- 1965 – Voting Rights Act
- 1971 - Federal Election Campaign Act amended
- 1993 – National Voter Registration Act
- 2002 – Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act
- 2002 – Help America Vote Act
Examining legislative history can often lead to a richer understanding. For resources about this subject, see the Gallagher guide on the Federal Legislative History.
The Gallagher Law Library’s collection includes a number of legislative histories discussing the Federal Election Campaign Act and several rounds of amending legislation.
Legislative History of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971. 1 vol.
KF4920.A319 A15 1981 at Classified Stacks
Legislative History of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971: P.L. 92-225; 86 Stat. 3, Feb. 7, 1972. 8 vols.
Legislative History of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974.
LLMC Digital > US Federal Government > Legislative > US-Leg, Cong., Leg. Histl, Elections Act 1974
Legislative History of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1976. 1 vol.
KF4920.A319 A15 1977 at Classified Stacks & HeinOnline
LLMC Digital > US Federal Government > Legislative > US-Leg, Cong., Leg. Histl, Elections Act 1976
Legislative History of the Federal Election Campaign Act Amendments of 1976: P.L. 94-283: 90 Stat. 475: May 11, 1976. 5 vols.
Legislative History of the Federal Election Campaign Act Amendments of 1979. 1 vol.
KF4920.A319 A15 1983 at Classified Stacks & HeinOnline
Legislative History of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. 3 vols.
JK991.L44 1989 at Classified Stacks
Legislative History of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (McCain-Feingold). 12 vols.
HeinOnline also offers legislative histories discussing the Voting Rights Act and amendments:
Federal courts decided many election law cases and a number of cases have reached the Supreme Court. The best ways to find these cases include using annotations in the U.S.Code Annotated or the U.S.Code Service for relevant statute or using a digest.
The Department of Justice lists cases arising under several statutes, including the Voting Rights Act, the National Voter Registration Act, the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, and the Help America Vote Act, with summaries and links to court documents.
The Federal Election Commission also offers a starting point, a list of major campaign finance cases with links to court documents.
For basic administrative law resources, see the Gallagher guide on U.S. Administrative Law Research.
The Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division enforces voting rights statutes, including their application to redistricting. The website includes information about statutes enforced, policies and guidance, and court cases dealing with section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
The Department of Justice regulations are located in Title 28 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 51.
The Federal Election Commission website includes:
Congress has delegated authority to promulgate voluntary election management guidelines to the Election Assistance Commission. The EAC website includes resources for voters, information on voting systems, and election management resources.
Washington State Primary Resources
For general information on Washington State legal research, see the Gallagher guides focusing on Washington State law.
Title 29A of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) covers election law, from voter registration to recount procedures. The Secretary of State promulgates regulations under these laws, which can be found in Section 434 of the Washington Administrative Code.
The Washington Supreme Court and Court of Appeals have decided many election law cases. You can search for opinions from these courts using LegalWA.org.
The Secretary of State issues rules and regulations governing matters relating to elections. These regulations are found in Title 434 of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC).
The Secretary’s site includes a section on elections. On this site, you can find material such as election laws, candidate filings, information about initiatives and referenda, and results from prior elections. As counties typically carry out elections, their websites may also be consulted; keep in mind that the level of detail at the county websites varies.
In light of the recent U.S. Census, redistricting is underway. The Washington State Redistricting Commission has a website where you can learn more.
Local Ballot Measure Database [Municipal Research & Services Center of Washington]
Search by county, government entity (including special districts), measures, funding type, and keyword. Covers 2011 to date.
Both the Gallagher Law Library and the UW Libraries contain a number of volumes on election law. You can find these volumes by searching the Gallagher Law Library catalog and Worldcat for “election law” or for a specific issue you want to learn more about. Some sample subject headings are:
- Apportionment (Election law)--United Staes
- Contested elections--United States
- Election law--United States
- Voter registration--United States
- Voting--United States
As there is no treatise or nutshell on the subject, casebooks may be the best place for a broad overview.
Voting Rights and Election Law.
KF4886 .D56 2010 at Classified Stacks
Election Law: Cases and Materials, 3d ed.
KF4886.A4 L69 2004 at Classified Stacks. Note: The 2008 edition is available via Summit.
The Legal Information Institute’s entry on election law. This page contains lots of links to cases and statutes to drill down to specifics.
The Election Law Journal is the primary periodical dedicated to election law issues. Access it through either LegalTrac > Publication Search > "Election Law Journal" (Jan. 2008-June 2011) or Westlaw (2003-date).
Westlaw: ELECTION-TP contains documents from law reviews, journals, continuing legal education material, American Law Reports, texts, and periodicals that relate to election law.
Fifty-State Law Surveys
The States vary significantly in the area of election law. Some offer citizens the opportunity to make law through initiatives. Some have enacted voter ID laws. Some provide for electronic voter registration. Here are two resources that will help you track trends and compare efforts.
The Subject Compilations of State Laws database on HeinOnline identifies fifty-state surveys on several election topics, including:
- Electoral College
- Political Parties
- Voters and Voting
The database includes a wide range of material: articles, books, commercial databases, court briefs and opinions, government publications, Internet sites, looseleaf services, and others.
The National Conference of State Legislatures is one of the sites whose pages are indexed in the Subject Compilations of State Laws database.
Current Awareness Resources
Several sources offers services to help you stay up-to-date on election law topics.
The Federal Election Commission’s website is a gateway to a wide range of information: laws, advisory opinions, and campaign finance filings.
The Election Assistance Commission’ also allows users to sign up to receive agency news and updates.
The BNA Money & Politics Report covers the judicial and executive branch actions, both at the federal and state levels. Members of the UW Law community can sign up to receive the Report via email.Visitors using a UW-connected can access this service by clicking on the BNA link under Selected Databases on the Law Library homepage. [Note: The Money & Politics Report is under the Trade and Commerce heading.]
Election Law @ Moritz is a nonpartisan website devoted to election law, covering topics such as "voter registration, voter ID, early and absentee voting, provisional balloting, poll workers and polling place procedures, recounts and election contests, and other related issues." Includes both issue-by-issue and state-by-state analysis. Updates are available via email subscription.
Rick Hansen, a law professor at the University of California-Irvine, maintains the , devoted to a variety of issues. Look for the links to subscribe via RSS feed or email on the right-hand navigation bar.