William & Mary Law School’s Election Law Program has received a $300,000 grant from the Democracy Fund, a charitable foundation that seeks to improve the democratic process in the United States.
A joint project of William & Mary Law School and the National Center for State Courts, the Election Law Program provides resources for judges deciding election cases. The Democracy Fund grant will support one of the program’s signature projects, a state election law “eBenchbook” that contextualizes election statutes in all 50 states.
The grant will also support the Alliance of Students at the Polls (ASAP), a law student initiative that began at William & Mary in 2020 to mobilize law students nationwide to support state and local election officials.
“The Election Law Program is extremely grateful to the Democracy Fund for its support of our initiatives,” says Rebecca Green, associate professor of law and co-director of the Election Law Program. “The Democracy Fund has been a longtime supporter of the Election Law Program’s work.”
Professor and Dean Emeritus Davison Douglas co-founded the Election Law Program in 2005 in the wake of Bush v. Gore, after which election litigation began to increase in frequency.
“That trend has continued and, of course, exploded during and since the 2020 election,” Green says. “Supporting the judiciary in coping with election disputes — often based on arcane and confusing state statutes — is more important than ever.”
Green says that the Election Law Program has approached the eBenchbook project “in a learning mindset,” and that the platform has evolved since the ELP released its first prototype in 2016.
“With generous and continued support from the Democracy Fund — and with help from new funders like the Hewlett Foundation and the Klarman Foundation — current efforts involve automating the eBenchbook to ensure its accuracy and creating other tools to assist judges in understanding aspects of election litigation,” Green says.
The student-led group, ASAP, came about during the COVID-19 pandemic, when election officials faced a shortage of poll workers. In the lead up to 2020, ASAP developed a nationwide network of law students to recruit student poll workers. Now, with 2024 on the horizon, one of the most pressing concerns is widespread distrust in election outcomes.
“ASAP believes law students can and should play a role in shoring up public trust,” Green says. “ASAP is currently engaged in an ambitious project to recruit law students around the country to support election administrators.”
Green praises her students and is grateful for William & Mary Law School’s ethos of citizen lawyering.
“Citizen lawyers are keenly aware of the many roles lawyers play — at work and in their communities — in upholding democratic norms and practices,” Green says. “A big part of the Election Law Program’s work is ensuring that William & Mary graduates lawyers who understand how a law degree can contribute to democratic functioning.”