A central tension in law is about the relationship between law and politics. Our feature in this issue delves into an area of law and practice where the two phenomena are inseparable, the law of politics or the “law of democracy.” Constitutional law, federal statutes, and state law all shape our political system from soup to nuts—the conduct of the elections themselves, the drawing of electoral districts, the rights of political parties to associate, the financing of campaigns, and much more. As the fall presidential election approaches, it seemed a great time to get a sense of the issues that our faculty, graduates, and students are working on in this area.
The feature makes clear what talented law faculty can do when they are at the top of their game. Two of our senior faculty, Pam Karlan and Nate Persily, have made Stanford Law School the place to be for those who want to study and practice election law. Pam is one of the founders of the modern version of the law of democracy field, and her scholarship has shaped our understanding of some of its knottiest questions. But her footprint on the field is larger than that. She is a stunning advocate and has been involved as a lawyer in some of the most significant election law litigation that has occurred over the course of her legal career—starting from her time with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and continuing through her most recent stint in 2014 and 2015 as the deputy assistant attorney general overseeing voting rights cases at the U.S. Department of Justice. Nate Persily comes to this work as a political scientist and a lawyer, who, like Pam, has influenced the field through his scholarship but also through his active involvement in the everyday practice of election law—serving as an appointee to draw districting maps and as the research director of a nonpartisan commission on election administration reform. One of our newest faculty hires, Rabia Belt, is a legal historian who has shed considerable light on the disenfranchisement of disabled individuals, including Civil War veterans. In a new article, profiled alongside the feature, she writes about the barriers to voting that disabled individuals face even today.
Our students and graduates are taking full advantage of the concentration of faculty talent around these issues at Stanford. Nate Persily has supervised several groups of students in policy lab practicums, one of which is described in the pages of the magazine. This group of students have zeroed in on the collision course between the traditional regulation of the financing of campaigns and the technological advances that make that regulation anachronistic and ineffectual. Pam is a devoted mentor to her students, and, inspired no doubt by her extraordinary example, they are sprinkled throughout key government agencies and nonprofits that work on issues of election law.
You will enjoy the feature and its accompanying pieces, but there’s much more to take in as well. Three of our graduates—Ailsa Chang of NPR, Jonathan Schwartz of Univision, and Hilary Tompkins of the U.S. Department of Interior—are profiled. Several students write about their experience in our new courses that occur in part overseas. There is a report on Hank Greely’s new book and an excerpt from Deborah Rhode’s, as well as a memoriam piece reflecting on the life and career of the truly exceptional Shirley Hufstedler, Class of 1949, who passed away in late March. There is much more in these pages about the experience of being at Stanford Law today and the careers and lives of our graduates, who are all over the world.