#ELB20th: Travis Crum: Coming of Age Reading the Election Law Blog

The following is a guest blog post from Travis Crum, part of the ELB 20th Anniversary:

I was honored when Rick asked me to participate in the Election Law Blog’s 20th anniversary celebration. When considering what to write, I took a trip down memory lane. I first encountered ELB back in 2007, when I was a twenty-two-year-old reader and research assistant for Judge David Tatel. Little did I know that Rick would graciously feature my own work—even before I became a tenure-track professor—and that I would become part of the broader ELB community.

The 2000s and early 2010s were the heyday of legal blogging. The giants of generalist constitutional law were the libertarian-leaning Volokh Conspiracy and the left-wing Balkinization. One could also go to How Appealing or SCOTUSblog for news round-ups and briefs. But ELB filled a distinctive niche, and not just because it focused on voting rights and campaign finance. ELB’s target audience was not only law professors and gunner law students, but also lawyers, journalists, and policymakers. One could find articles about developments in Congress or state houses, abstracts of forthcoming articles, and recent court opinions—always with a hyperlink—with nuanced commentary. Unlike many other bloggers in the 2010s, Rick successfully moved over to Twitter, while simultaneously expanding ELB’s role in the public debate.

In ELB’s early years, election law looked very different: Section Five of the VRA was still operative, partisan gerrymandering claims were theoretically justiciable, and no one had even heard of the VRA’s bail-in provision. Fast forward to Spring 2020, when I taught my first seminar on voting rights. While prepping for the class, I pulled out the syllabus for Heather Gerken’s Law of Democracy class that I took in Spring 2009. As I went through the assignments, I crossed out what was no longer good law. The syllabus was in tatters.

So how did we get here? As I’ve expanded on elsewhere, the Supreme Court has withdrawn from the political thicket on every front except race. And even there, the Court’s pending decision in Allen v. Milligan (née Merrill v. Milligan) looms large and threatens the effectiveness of Section 2 of the VRA.

Through all of these dramatic changes, ELB has been there and hasn’t missed a beat. ELB has chronicled the aftermath of Citizens United, the demise of the VRA’s coverage formula, the questionable revival of Shaw’s racial gerrymandering cause of action, the death knell of federal partisan gerrymandering claims, President Trump’s Big Lie about the 2020 election, and efforts to reform the Electoral Count Act. The list goes on. One day far into the future, when historians are writing about American democracy in the early 21st century, ELB will be a treasure trove of information.

Rick has been called the “Dean of Election Law,” and in some ways his blog resembles a virtual faculty. Today, ELB hosts a wide array of voices who disagree on important topics like the role of race in redistricting, how to regulate social media, and litigation strategy in the shadow of the increasingly conservative Roberts Court. But all of us are united in trying to make our democracy work. And like a law school, ELB has shaped the legal education of the next generation of voting rights lawyers and scholars, myself included. Put differently, we don’t know a world without the Election Law Blog. Hopefully we never will.

Share this: