UK law students offer free, quick analysis on election-law issues

Joshua A. Douglas  
is a University of Kentucky law professor and expert in election law.
Joshua A. Douglas is a University of Kentucky law professor and expert in election law.

By Joshua A. Douglas

Today millions of voters across Kentucky and the nation will head to the polls to make important decisions about who should lead us in Congress, the state legislature, judicial offices and local government.

UK College of Law students, under my supervision, will be watching closely — and providing commentary on any legal issues that might arise. Visit www.uky.edu/electionlaw to see these bright minds in action.

The brand-new Election Law Society of the University of Kentucky College of Law is providing election-night analysis. During the evening, my students and I will discuss legal issues that crop up during the voting process, both in Kentucky and beyond.

We will consider the way in which significant court decisions can affect the election process. Election litigation is now a routine part of campaign strategy. Candidates often bring pre-election suits in an attempt to change the rules for Election Day to favor their side. Campaigns have lawyers on call if it looks like a race might go into overtime. The UK Election Law Society is there to chronicle it all.

For example, just a few weeks ago a federal judge struck down Kentucky's long-standing ban on electioneering within 300 feet of a polling place, but an appellate court modified that decision so that it applies only to public property — meaning that campaigning on private property, even next door to the polling site, is fair game.

How might that change what happens on the ground today? Will campaigns take advantage of these expanded opportunities for campaigning, and what could that mean for the outcome of the hotly contested Senate race?

Our neighbors to the north have also experienced last-minute litigation over their voting processes. Ohio fought back legal challenges to its decision to reduce early voting from 35 to 28 days this year, with the U.S. Supreme Court putting on hold a lower-court decision calling the cutback unconstitutional and discriminatory.

There has also been litigation over whether the state must supply absentee ballots to individuals arrested over the past weekend and still in jail on Election Day. (It does not.) How will these legal rulings affect the races in Ohio?

Similarly, courts around the country have issued important decisions on voter-ID laws, with the Supreme Court stopping the Wisconsin law from taking force but allowing Texas to implement its strict voter-ID requirement. Both states have important elections today. How will the legal issues affect voters?

You can find answers to these questions, and more, at www.uky.edu/electionlaw.

If you want to speak with us, call 859-257-4935; we will have someone staffing the phones starting at 3 p.m. You also may email us at election@lsv.uky.edu.

Please let us know if you hear of any legal issues happening at the polls that we should address. We will be a great resource throughout the day, especially if it looks like one of the races could go into overtime.

If you witness any election-law violations, contact the Kentucky attorney general's hotline at 1-800-328-8683. But if you want in-depth legal commentary on how election law might affect the voting process, hop on over to www.uky.edu/electionlaw.

Make sure to vote today. It's your civic responsibility. Then check out the Election Law Society's website to learn more about how election law affects our democratic process. You will be amazed at what you learn.