Voting Rights and Election Law

 ***THIS is an ARCHIVED guide. It may contain BROKEN links. Its value is HISTORICAL only.***

Current Research Guides 

Hyla Bondareff, Research Services Librarian and Lecturer in Law, Washington University School of Law Library


This guide is written to assist students of Professor Butler's Voting Rights and Election Law Seminar. It is intended to serve as a starting point--it is not the end all, be all, for research in this area. If you cannot find the information you seek, please come see me or another librarian for more assistance.

Background information from the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Voting Section web page:

Legal Materials


The official source for federal codified law is the United States Code (USC), but the commercially published United States Code Annotated (USCA.) and United States Code Service (USCS) are often more useful for research. They are updated more frequently and include annotations. Copies of all are in the Reading Room, and USC and USCA are also on the Fifth Floor in the Federal Materials section. The annotated codes are also available full text online: the USCS is on Lexis (Lexis Source: USCS - United States Code Service; Code, Const, Rules, Conventions & PLs), and the U.S.C.A. is on Westlaw (Westlaw Database: USCA).

Voting Rights Act.

Section 5 (42 U.S.C. 1973c)  [Sec. 1973c Alteration of voting qualifications and procedures; action by State or political subdivision for declaratory judgment of no denial or abridgement of voting rights; three-judge district court; appeal to Supreme Court]

Section 2 (42 U.S.C. 1973) [Sec. 1973 Denial or abridgement of right to vote on account of race or color through voting qualifications or prerequisites; establishment of violation]

Current state statutes are available on Lexis and Westlaw. The library also has paper copies: Missouri in the Reading Room, and other states on the first floor. If you want to do a state-by-state comparison of a statutory issue, you might want to see if anyone has done the work already. Try Nyberg's-- Subject Compilations of State Laws [KF 1 .F672]. The current edition is kept as part of the Reference Collection (ask for it at the Circulation Desk). Previous editions are in the stacks. Another place to search is LegalTrac. You might find a journal article on your topic which discusses various state laws.

Cases (Federal and State)
Cases for federal and state law may also be located by using the appropriate digest. The Federal and regional reporters are on the fifth floor. Digests for Federal courts are in the Reading Room. All state reporters and digests are on the first floor, ordered alphabetically by state.

Lexis and Westlaw will also provide access to federal and state case law. For an online search, start with a one good case--a case that you know about or search the digests first to get headnote/topic titles.  

Administrative Rules and Regulations (Federal and State)
Federal and state administrative agencies promulgate rules and regulations to carry out statutory mandates. Notices of federal rules and regulations are first published in the Federal Register. Once a rule becomes final, it is codified into the Code of Federal Regulations. Lexis and Westlaw provide access to the CFR and the Federal Register. GPO Access has a free electronic Code of Federal Regulations (ECFR). See Title 28 Parts 51 -- Procedures for the administration of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended; and 55 -- Implementation of the provisions of the Voting Rights Act regarding language minority groups.

Missouri provides access to its Code of State Regulations (CSR) via the web at The Secretary of State for Missouri also publishes the Missouri Register, where new and proposed rules are announced. We have hard copy of both of these items in the library--the CSR is on Reserve and in the Reading Room and the Missouri Register is on the first floor, with the Missouri primary source materials. Other states also publish their regulations and most are available on the web. For those states that do not have a web-accessible code of regulations, the library purchases the print version and shelves them on the 1st floor with the other State primary materials. To locate any state's regulatory information on the web, use the National Association of Secretaries of State web site.

Books: Search Online Catalogs
You might also find books or journals which cover your subject. The following chart provides links to online catalogs. Use these sources to find books or journal titles. You can try keyword searches using specific words for your issues. For example, the terms research human subject ethics brings up 35 records. You can also try a subject search. Useful subject headings may be:

  • Election Law (and then the relevant subheading(s)
  • Campaign funds Law and legislation
  • Elections Corrupt practices
  • Equal time rule (Broadcasting)
  • Labor unions Elections Law and legislation
  • Literacy tests (Election law)
  • Local elections [ here are entered works on local elections and local election laws.
  • Works on the electoralsystems and election laws of individual local government units are entered under Elections--[local subdivision] or Election law--[local subdivision].]
  • Nominations for office --subdivision Officials and employees--Selection and appointment under names of countries, cities, etc. and names of individual government agencies; and subdivision Selection and appointment under types of officials
  • Political campaigns Law and legislation
  • Primaries
  • Voter registration
  • Voting-machines Law and legislation

For WorldCat, you will need to request the item via Interlibrary Loan (use the online form at /library/pages.aspx?id=1138). Please do not use the link in WorldCat. If you cannot find a book with any of these sources, stop by the Reference Desk or ask a librarian.


Catalog  Contents & Comments 
Law Library  Start searching here.
WU Hilltop Libraries  Don't forget to search the entire campus (excluding Med). Many policy materials will be held at Olin.
MOBIUS  A union catalog of academic libraries in Missouri--includes all libraries in the University of Missouri system and Saint Louis University. One can make a request that a book be delivered to the Law Library. Great source but due dates are short.
WorldCat (over 40 million items) Use this source last. Best for very focused searches. Do not use the ILL connection within WorldCat, use our online Interlibrary Loan form to request items not available here on campus.


Journal Articles
Journal articles are also likely to be a great source of information. The chart below lists general legal and non-legal databases which may contain references to election law articles. Once you find an article you want, check the online catalog to see if we have the Journal title. The Law Library's current journals are kept on Reserve (Circulation Desk); the older journals are bound and shelved on the 5th floor, in alphabetical order. These search the many different journals and newspapers. Each has slightly different coverage. Current law journals are held behind the circulation desk--after they are bound, they are shelved on the 5th floor. The non-law journal titles will need to be searched in the catalog to determine location. If the title isn't held on campus, the library can obtain it via Interlibrary Loan. Just fill out the online form, and we'll do the rest.

For other non-law databases, see Olin's Government, Public Affairs, Political Science and Legal Studies page.


Source  Coverage  Content and Comments 
LegalTrac  1980 - A database of legal newspapers and journals, including law reviews.
Index to Legal Periodicals  1981 - Another database of law reviews.
PAIS  1972 - Indexes and abstracts books, periodical articles, and government publications in the fields of public affairs and public policy.
Expanded Academic Index  1980 - Covers all subjects, indexes scholarly articles and the New York Times.

Government Publications
These works will prove useful for anyone studying federal government policy, regulations, or law. Generally, most federal documents are housed in our Government Documents collection on Level 2. They are shelved by SuDoc number, which organizes the material by issuing agency. Please see a reference librarian if you have any problems finding the material.  Olin Library on campus is also a federal depository and can provide second copies of some of our material.


Source  Coverage  Notes 
Marcive WebDocs
1976-present Indexes all federal documents distributed through Federal Depository Library Program.
Congressional Universe 
1970-present Indexes Congressional publications (some available full-text). Only available in A-B Hall.
Google UncleSam  varies Google's search engine, focused only on those sites that have the .gov suffix.  Broader than FirstGov.
varies FirstGov is a public-private partnership government website to provide the public with easy, one-stop access to all online U.S. Federal Government resources.

August 30, 2004