Sara Sampson is a reference librarian at the Moritz Law Library, The Ohio State University, where she has been involved in the Election Law @ Moritz program since its inception. She received both her B.S. and J.D. from The Ohio State University and her M.L.I.S. from Kent State University. Prior to joining the Moritz Law Library, Ms. Sampson served as a judicial law clerk to the Hon. William H. Harsha and the Hon. Roger L. Kline of the Ohio Court of Appeals, Fourth District.
Election Law @ Moritz is a non-partisan program devoted to bringing insight and information on the laws governing all types of elections in the United States. It began in the summer of 2004 when faculty and administrators realized that the faculty at Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University held a diverse interest and expertise in election law. At the program’s center is the Election Law @ Moritz website, a collection of analyses, litigation documents, webcasts, commentary and more about election law. It is not simply a resource for Election Day. Rather, it is a tool for anyone interested in the election process including subjects as diverse as campaign finance and candidate eligibility to voting machines and voter registration.
The website has gone through several versions and has been retooled for the elections in 2004 and 2005. Currently, the website focuses on commentary, litigation documents and analysis and the e-Book on Election Law. A quick look at the front page reveals this focus. The e-Book’s Table of Contents is available along the left-hand side. In the middle column, there are links to hot topics (currently Post-Election Reform), Election Law Litigation, and What’s New. What’s New is available via RSS feed and summarizes new postings and election law-related news. Understandably, this area is most active near major elections. The right column is devoted to commentary. At the top, the Weekly Comment is featured. Below the Weekly Comment, there are two collections of commentary: Equal Vote, a blog by Associate Director of Election Law @ Moritz Professor Dan Tokaji or Free & Fair, a collection of commentary by Election Law @ Moritz director Professor Edward Foley.
Election Law @ Moritz was recently recognized with the Ohio Bar Foundation’s 2005 award for Outstanding Legal Research.
The litigation project began during the 2004 election and has continued to expand. During the 2004 election, it was one of the only websites that collected litigation related to the many cases concerning the election process. The site closely followed litigation around the country concerning voting machines, election day challenges, access to polling places and the eventual Ohio recount litigation. Currently, the site is focusing on fourteen cases that are likely to have a lasting impact on election law in jurisdictions throughout the country. Occasionally, significant election law cases are summarized and posted on the Recent Case Decisions page.
The pending litigation chart is the quickest way to focus in on a pending case. It is organized by topics such as Campaign Finance, Felon Voting Rights, and Redistricting. The chart contains the case topic, name, court, issue and the status of the case, so users can quickly scan the chart and link to a page focused on a particular case. Each case has a page with a summary, court documents, and related links. The documents are normally in PDF format and most are stored on the Moritz server to ensure long-term access to the documents. An example is the Rios v. Blackwell page, the case that challenges the constitutionality of the Ohio recount procedure.
Once a case is fully litigated, dismissed or settled, it is moved to the archived litigation page. Most of the cases are from the states that were swing states in the 2004 election or who had election controversies after the 2004 election (Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington). The links to the documents themselves do not change to enable citation to the documents and links by other websites.
e-Book on Election Law
The e-Book on Election Law covers 8 major topics: Voter Eligibility, Candidate Eligibility, Campaigns, Voting Equipment, Voting Procedures, Voting Districts, Types of Elections, and General Principles of election law. Each section is monitored by an Ohio State University Moritz College of Law faculty member, who is responsible for updating the sections and watching for new developments in that area of Election Law. The electronic format allows for updates as the law changes and additions as new election law problems emerge.
Although some sections of the e-Book are Ohio focused, many sections are targeted to national issues or the status of election law in so called swing states. For example, the article by Professor Kate Federle (Director of the Justice for Children Project at Moritz) about why older children can’t vote is applicable to all United States jurisdictions while Professor Terri Enns (a Senior Fellow in the Election Law @ Moritz program) focuses on Ohio penalties for Penalties for Voter Registration Fraud in Ohio in this article.
Some sections have a collection of relevant links to assist the researcher in finding other viewpoints and more information (e.g., Professor Peter Shane’s piece on Democracy & Cyberspace. )
Others sections contain links to annotated bibliographies prepared by Moritz Law Library librarians during the summer of 2004. A comprehensive list of articles in the area was prepared and annotated with summaries of the articles. Examples of annotated bibliographies are Ballot Design, and Registration Rules.
Other rich sources of analysis on the website are the various types of commentary available: the Weekly Comment, EqualVote blog and Free & Fair. Free & Fair is a collection of writings by Professor Foley that have appeared on the Election Law @ Moritz Website.
The Weekly Comment is a more in depth expert analysis of a timely issue. As its name implies, it is normally published once a week on Tuesdays. Users may sign up to receive weekly updates by clicking the Sign Up for Weekly Updates link on the Election Law @ Moritz homepage. Recent topics include The Federalism Defect in the Prosecution of Tom DeLay, Is There a Middle Ground in the Voter ID Debate? and What Should the New Justice Do About Campaign Finance?. Many of the comments propose solutions to election law problems or offer opinions about current proposals. The archives are archived online.
Professor Tokaji’s blog Equal Vote was merged with the Election Law @ Moritz website in one of the recent redesigns. It is now fully searchable along with the rest of the Election Law @ Moritz content with the “Search EL@M” function. Professor Tokaji writes that his blog focuses on “election reform, the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, and related topics with special attention to the voting rights of people of color, non English proficient citizens, and people with disabilities.”
General Election Law resources are cataloged on the Related Links page. These include blogs, election news services, government sites and non-partisan organizations.
The Election Law @ Moritz program sponsors many events from lunch-time discussions between faculty and students on Ohio & National election hot topics to in-depth conferences. The schedule of future events is posted online. Streaming video is usually available either during the event or archived shortly after the event on the main Moritz College website along with other College events. Notable Election Law @ Moritz events available for viewing are:
- Independent Election Administration: Who Draws the Lines, and Who Counts the Votes?, a multi-day conference that drew many election law experts
- Public meetings and hearings of the Election Assistance Commission held at Moritz College of Law
- The Legacy of Election 2000 If the System Fails Again?, which featured speaker Ohio Governor Bob Taft
- False Campaign Ads: Pros and Cons of Regulation
- Electronic Voting: the 2004 Election and Beyond
- Money & Politics 2004: New Rules, New Practices
The Library’s Role During the 2004 Presidential Election Season
In the months leading up to the election, law librarians at Moritz Law Library provided research assistance to faculty involved in the program. A secure webpage utilizing RSS feeds was developed to allow the Election Law @ Moritz team to keep up to date with breaking news stories. In the week leading up to the election, a reference librarian completed a daily email summarizing breaking news for the team. Librarians also helped to train the student volunteers who staffed the research center by instructing them on PACER, LexisNexis, Westlaw and general Internet searching.
On Election Day, a reference librarian was present in the WOSU studios, which served as the Election Law @ Moritz headquarters for several days. The librarian and volunteer student research assistants worked around the clock to assist faculty members as they were interviewed from news organizations from all over the world. Even after the election, librarians continued to update the litigation center with the help of student research assistants.