skip navigation

In May of this year, HeinOnline began taking a new approach to legal research, offering researchers the ability to search or browse varying types of legal research material all related to a specialized area of law in one database. We introduced this concept as a new legal research platform with the release of World Constitutions Illustrated: Contemporary & Historical Documents & Resources, which we’ll discuss in further detail later on in this post. First, we must take a brief look at how HeinOnline started and where it is going. Then, we will continue on by looking at the scope of the new platform and how it is being implemented across HeinOnline’s newest library modules.

This is how we started…
Traditionally, HeinOnline libraries featured one title or a single type of legal research material. For example, the Law Journal Library, HeinOnline’s largest and most used database, contains law and law-related periodicals. The Federal Register Library contains the Federal Register dating back to inception, with select supporting resources. The U.S. Statutes at Large Library contains the U.S. Statutes at Large volumes dating back to inception, with select supporting resources.


This is where we are going…
The new subject-specific legal research platform, introduced earlier this year, has shifted from that traditional approach to a more dynamic approach of offering research libraries focused on a subject area, versus a single title or resource. This platform combines primary and secondary resources, books, law review articles, periodicals, government documents, historical documents, bibliographic references and other supporting resources all related to the same area of law, into one database, thus providing researchers one central place to find what they need.


How is this platform being implemented?
In May, HeinOnline introduced the platform with the release of a new library called World Constitutions Illustrated: Contemporary & Historical Documents & Resources. The platform has since been implemented in every new library that HeinOnline has released including History of Bankruptcy: Taxation & Economic Reform in America, Part III and Intellectual Property Law Collection.

Pilot project: World Constitutions Illustrated
First, let’s look at the pilot project, World Constitutions Illustrated. Our goal when releasing this new library was to present legal researchers with a different scope than what is currently available for those studying constitutional law and political science. To achieve this, the library was built upon the new legal research platform, which brings together: constitutional documents, both current and historical; secondary sources such as the CIA’s World Fact Book, Modern Legal Systems Cyclopedia, the Library of Congress’s Country Studies and British and Foreign State Papers; books; law review articles; bibliographies; and links to external resources on the Web that directly relate to the political and historical development of each country. By presenting the information in this format, researchers no longer have to visit multiple Web sites or pull multiple sources to obtain the documentary history of the development of a country’s constitution and government.

Inside the interface, every country has a dedicated resource page that includes the Constitutions and Fundamental Laws, Commentaries & Other Relevant Sources, Scholarly Articles Chosen by Our Editors, a Bibliography of Select Constitutional Books, External Links, and a news feed. Let’s take a look at France.


Constitutions & Fundamental Laws
France has a significant hierarchy of constitutional documents from the current constitution as amended to 2008 all the way back to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen promulgated in 1789. Within the hierarchy of documents, one can find consolidated texts, amending laws, and the original text in multiple languages when translations are available.


Commentaries & Other Relevant Sources
Researchers will find more than 100 commentaries and other relevant sources of information related to the development of the government of France and the French Constitution. These sources include secondary source books and classic constitutional law books. To further connect these sources to the French Constitution, our Editors have reviewed each source book and classic constitutional book and linked researchers to the specific chapters or sections of the works that directly relate to the study of the French Constitution. For example, the work titled American Nation: A History, by Albert Bushnell Hart, has direct links to chapters from within volumes 11 and 13, each of which discusses and relates to the development of the French government.


Scholarly Articles Chosen by Our Editors
This section features more than 40 links to scholarly articles from HeinOnline’s Law Journal Library that are directly related to the study of the French Constitution and the development of the government of France. The Editors hand-selected and included these articles from the thousands of articles in the Law Journal Library due to their significance and relation to the constitutional and political development of the nation. When browsing the list of articles, one will also find Hein’s ScholarCheck integrated, which allows a researcher to view other law review articles that cite that specific article. In order for researchers to access the law review articles, they must be subscribed to the Law Journal Library.


Bibliography of Select Constitutional Books
There are thousands of books related to constitutional law. Our Editors have gone through an extensive list of these resources and hand-selected books relevant to the constitutional development of each country. The selections are presented as a bibliography within each country. France has nearly 100 bibliographic references. Many bibliographic references also contain the ISBN which links to WorldCat, allowing researchers to find the work in a nearby library.


External Links
External links are also selected by the Editors as they are developing the constitutional hierarchies for each country. If there are significant online resources available that support the study of the constitution or the country’s political development, the links are included on the country page.


News Feeds
The last component on each country’s page is a news feed featuring recent articles about the country’s constitution. The news feed is powered by a Google RSS news feed and researchers can easily use the RSS icon to add it to their own RSS readers.


In addition to the significant and comprehensive coverage of every country in World Constitutions Illustrated, the collection also features an abundance of material related to the study of constitutional law at a higher level. This makes it useful for those researching more general or regional constitutional topics.

Searching capabilities on the new platform
To further enhance the capabilities of this platform, researchers are presented with a comprehensive search tool that allows one to search the documents and books by a number of metadata points including the document date, promulgated date, document source, title, and author. For researchers studying the current constitution, the search can be narrowed to include just the current documents that make up the constitution for a country. Furthermore, a search can be generated across all the documents, classic books, or reference books for a specific country, or it can be narrower in scope to include a specific type of resource. After a search is generated, researchers will receive faceted search results, allowing them to quickly and easily drill down their results set by using facets including document type, date, country, and title.


Contributing to the project
An underlying concept behind the new legal research platform is encouraging legal scholars, law libraries, subject area experts, and other professionals to contribute to the project. HeinOnline wants to work with scholars and libraries from all around the world to continue to build upon the collection and to continue developing the constitutional timelines for every country. Several libraries and scholars from around the world have already contributed constitutional works from their libraries to World Constitutions Illustrated.

Extending the platform beyond the pilot project
As mentioned earlier, this platform has been implemented in every new library that HeinOnline has released including History of Bankruptcy: Taxation & Economic Reform in America, Part III and Intellectual Property Law Collection. Therefore, it’s necessary to briefly take a moment to look at these two libraries.

History of Bankruptcy: Taxation & Economic Reform in America, Part III
The History of Bankruptcy library includes more than 172,000 pages of legislative histories, treatises, documents and more, all related to bankruptcy law in America. The primary resources in this library are the legislative histories, which can be browsed by title, public law number, or popular name. Also included are classic books dating back to the late 1800’s and links to scholarly articles that were selected by our editors due to their significance to the study of bankruptcy law in America.


As with the searching capabilities presented in the World Constitutions Illustrated library, researchers can narrow a search by the type of resource, or search across everything in the library. After a search is generated, researchers will receive faceted search results, allowing them to quickly and easily drill down their results set by document type, date, or title.


Intellectual Property Law Collection
The Intellectual Property Law Collection, released just over a month ago, features nearly 2 million pages of legal research material related to patents, trademarks, and copyrights in America. It includes more than 270 books, more than 100 legislative histories, links to more than 50 legal periodicals, federal agency documents, the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure, CFR Title 37, U.S. Code Titles 17 & 35, and links to scholarly articles chosen by our Editors, all related to intellectual property law in America.


Furthermore, this library features a Google Patent Search widget that will allows researchers to search across more than 7 million patents made available to the public through an arrangement with Google and the United States Patent and Trademark Office.


Searching in the Intellectual Property Law Collection allows researchers to search across all types of documents, or narrow a search to just books, legislative histories, or federal agency decisions, for example. After a search is generated, researchers will receive faceted search results, allowing them to quickly and easily drill down their results set by using facets including document type, date, country, or title.


HeinOnline is the modern link to legal history, and the new legal research platform bolsters this primary objective. The platform brings together the primary and secondary sources, other supporting documents, books, links to articles, periodicals, and links to other online sources, making it a central stop for researchers to begin their search for legal research material. The Editors have selected the books, articles, and sources that they deem significant to that area of the law. This is then presented in one database, making it easier for researchers to find what they need. With the tremendous growth of digital media and online sources, it can prove difficult for a researcher to quickly navigate to the most significant sources of information. HeinOnline’s goal is to make this navigation easier with the implementation of this new legal research platform.

BaranichMarcie Baranich is the Marketing Manager at William S. Hein & Co., Inc. and is responsible for the strategic marketing processes for both Hein’s traditional products and its growing online legal research database, HeinOnline. In addition to her Marketing role, she is also active in the product development, training and support areas for HeinOnline. She is an author of the HeinOnline Blog, Wiki, YouTube channel, Facebook, and Twitter pages, and manages the strategic use of these resources to communicate and assist users with their legal research needs.

VoxPopuLII is edited by Judith Pratt.

Editor-in-Chief is Robert Richards, to whom queries should be directed.

Voting BoothsIn this post, I’d like to connect a specific area of my expertise—electronic voting (e-voting)—to issues of interest to the legal information community. Namely, I’ll talk about how new computerized methods of voting might affect elements of direct democracy: that is, ballot questions, including referenda and recall. Since some readers may be unfamiliar with issues related to electronic voting, I’ll spend the first two parts of this post giving some background on electronic voting and internet voting. I’ll then discuss how ballot questions change the calculus of e-voting in subtle ways.

Background on E-voting

The images of officials from 2000 closely scrutinizing punchcard ballots during the U.S. presidential election tend to give theofficial scrutiny mistaken impression that if we could just fix the outdated technology we used to cast ballots, a similar dispute wouldn’t happen again. However, elections are about “people, processes, and technology”; focusing on just one of those elements disregards the fact that elections are complex systems. Since 2000, the system of election administration in the United States has seen massive reform, with a lot of attention paid to issues of voting technology.

In the years after 2000, this system that had mostly “just worked” in previous decades was now seen as having endemic, fundamental problems. During the turn ofTammany Vote the 20th century, frauds involving ballot box-stuffing, vote-buying, and coercion were the major policy concern and the principal focus of reform. In contrast, at the turn of the 21st century, the prevalence of close, contentious contests—e.g., see this example of an analysis of New Jersey elections—often put the winning margin well within the “error” or “noise” level associated with ballot casting methods.

In 2002, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which provided the first federal funding for election administration, created the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and established the first federal requirements for voting systems, provisional balloting, and statewide voter registration databases. As my colleague Aaron Burstein and I argue in an article currently in preparation, in terms of advancing the state-of-the-art in voting  technology, HAVA conspicuously focused on providing funds that had to be spent quickly on types of voting systems that were then available on the market or soon would be available. The systems on the market at the time were invariably of a specific type: “Direct Recording Electronic” (DRE) voting machines, in which the record of a voter’s vote is kept entirely in digital form.

In the years since the passage of HAVA, computer science, usability, and information systems researchers have highlighted a number of shortcomings with this species of voting equipment. Three principal critiques voiced by this community are:

  • There is no proper way to do a recount on these systems. That is, if a race is close and a candidate calls for a recount, in most cases this will mean simply rerunning the software that added up all the digital votes; the exact same number would result. DREs do not keep a record that captures the voter’s intent; rather, these systems “collapse” voter intent into a digital  representation kept in digital memory. In other types of systems, such as optical scan systems—where voters fill in bubbles on paper ballots which are then scanned in for counting—the voter’s marks are directly preserved with the ballot. In a traditional recount with non-DRE systems, election staffers interpret these marks made by voters and come up with a count based on how a trained human would interpret ballots. This is not possible with DRE voting systems and lever machines, which do not preserve individual records of voter intent.
  • There is no way to know if the software that runs DREs is correctly recording votes, and we’ve seen numerous cases of software errors, including errors that have resulted in lost ballots. However, the addition of a “voter-verified paper record” (VVPR)—that is, an independent record that the voter can verify before casting his or her vote—alleviates not only this problem of recounting records that show voter intent, but also the myriad of problems associated with software flaws and “malware” (malicious software) in these machines. If voters check these records and agree that the records reflect how they want to vote, this renders the paper records “independent” of the system’s software, and the records can safely be audited and/or recounted if there do turn out to be software-based problems.
  • In a number of state-level technical reviews of voting systems, of which I have been a part in California and Ohio, we have found serious vulnerabilities in each voting system we examined. These findings leave little confidence in the equipment that was purchased by election officials in the wake of the 2000 election. Moreover, this was a clear indication that the systems for certifying this equipment at the state and federal level had serious shortcomings that have allowed sub-standard systems into the field.

Now, in 2010, many states have passed laws requiring auditable voting systems, and increasing numbers of election officials are moving from DRE-based systems to optical scan systems. Despite these reforms which have, in my opinion, moved e-voting in the right direction, the specter of internet voting looms large.

Internet VotingInternet Voting

During public talks I am often asked, “When will we vote over the internet?” People have an intuitive feeling that since they’re doing so much online, it makes sense to vote online, too. However, we need to recognize what kinds of activities the internet is good for, and voting is perhaps the last thing we want to happen online.

Things that we do online now that require high security, such as banking, are not anonymous processes; there is a named record associated with each transaction. Yet the secret ballot is a very important part of removing coercion and vote-buying from possibly corrupting influences on the vote. (See this superb article by Allison Hayward: “Bentham & Ballots: Tradeoffs between Secrecy and Accountability in How We  Vote”.)

Moreover, banks and other online establishments can purchase insurance to contain the risk of losses due to online fraud (although there are some indications that even this is becoming more difficult due to the increased sophistication and magnitude of online banking fraud). But there is still no firm that offers insurance for computer intrusions and attacks, or simply just errors, because it is very difficult to estimate the magnitude and likelihood of such losses. The “value” of a vote is very different from the value of currency: the value of your vote doesn’t just matter to you as a voter; it also matters to other voters. (“Vote dilution,” for example, is when processes conspire to render one voter’s vote more or less effective than another’s.) Also, it can be very hard to estimate the fitness of a given piece of software; said another way, we haven’t yet figured out how to write impervious or bug-free software.

Finally, as I mention above, the voting systems that the market has responded with in recent years leave a lot to be desired in terms of security, usability, and reliability. Internet voting essentially takes systems like those and adds the complications of sending voted electronic ballots over the public internet from users’ personal computers—neither of which are reliable or secure—with no VVPR.

We are far from the day in which highly secure processes can happen over the public internet from users’ computing devices. We will have to make significant technical advances in the security of personal computing devices and in network security before we can be sure that internet votes can be cast in a manner that approaches the privacy and security afforded by polling place voting.

Unfortunately, most designs for internet voting systems are un-auditable. Since these systems lack a paper trail, it is impossible to tell whether the voted ballot contents received at election headquarters correspond with what the voter intended to vote. The answer here would seem to be cryptographic voting systems, where the role of a paper trail is played by cryptographically secure records that can be transmitted over the network. Systems of this type have become increasingly more sophisticated, easy to use, and easy to understand, and have even been used in a binding municipal election here in the U.S.

E-voting and Direct Democracy

Elections don’t just elect people in the U.S.; in many states, voters vote on elements of direct democracy, specifically ballot referenda and recall questions. However, we should be even more concerned about opportunities to game these kinds of contests — and, equivalently, about how errors introduced by ballot casting methods for ballot questions could affect how we govern — than we are about the risks of voting fraud in candidate races.

It’s difficult to compare the importance of candidate elections to that of ballot questions. Certainly, ballot questions can be as simple as asking the voters to approve of city ordinances, such as increasing the amount of square footage for single-family homes. And, of course, on even-numbered years divisible by four, we elect the President of the United States, which unequivocally changes how our entire country is governed and operates. In between these two extremes are elections that many people don’t vote on, from judicial elections to highly contentious ballot propositions (like Proposition 8 in California), or transportation tax bonds that can result in hundreds of millions of dollars for local firms.

Can we compare the risks involved with candidate elections and ballot questions? In some sense, being able to bound the risk of fraud or error causing the election of the wrong candidate is similar to that resulting in “electing” the wrong decision in a ballot question; it’s equally difficult to compare the relative importance of elected contests and to decide on some level of likelihood that a contest runs a high risk of being targeted for attack or Voter Pollmight be especially sensitive to errors in the count. Polling may help, but it’s far from perfect. However, ballot questions have one aspect that should make this process a bit easier: rather than having the considerable uncertainty of what policies a potential candidate may institute once elected, ballot measures are concrete policy proposals or actions where we know very well what will happen if they are passed. This would seem to make ballot questions more attractive to attack; the uncertainty involved with what candidates may do is not present, so the net benefit of a successful attack, all other things being equal, should be larger.

Are there special risks involved with ballot questions that we should be concerned about in the face of electronic voting methods? Certainly. First, ballot propositions are invariably at the end of the ballot; hence, they’re referred to as “down-ticket” contests. Post-election auditing, where a subset of ballot records are hand-counted as a check against the electronic results, often doesn’t include ballot questions. To be certain, states like California require post-election auditing of all contests on the ballot. But there are many states that do not do comprehensive election auditing; they either don’t do any auditing at all or focus their auditing attention on top-ticket contests on the ballot (for more, see Sections 1 and 2 of: “Implementing Risk-Limiting Post-Election Audits in California”).

While we have seen little evidence of fraud using newer computerized voting systems compared to the massive record of paper ballot fraud in our country’s past, this should serve as little comfort. Just as in finance, where “past results are no indication of future performance,” adversarial security is similar. That we haven’t seen much evidence of computer fraud involving voting systems doesn’t mean it isn’t happening and doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Multi-million dollar ballot questions and constitutional amendments are exactly the kinds of law-making activities in which I expect to see the first evidence of outright computerized election hacking. This rings especially true if we start using the public internet for casting ballots. While foreign interests or hackers out of the reach of US law enforcement might certainly be interested in top-ticket candidate contests, the opportunities to affect state and local law as well as economic interests embodied in ballot questions would seem to be especially attractive.

Where Should We Go From Here?

To be sure, there is a lot of momentum behind moving parts of our elections processes online. In some cases, such as online voter registration, the security and reliability risks are small and the net benefits are particularly high. However, I can’t say the same about internet voting, especially in the sense that elements of direct democracy may be particularly attractive to powerful foreign interests and parties outside our collective jurisdiction. The recently passed Military and Overseas Voter  soldier voteEmpowerment (MOVE) Act has been interpreted to allow states to experiment with  online ballot casting, and the relevant agencies charged with implementing the  law—the Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), the EAC, and the National Institute of Standards and Testing (NIST)—have collectively interpreted the MOVE Act as requiring them to institute standards and pilot programs for internet voting for military and overseas voters. I’m on record as disagreeing with this interpretation, but I can understand that they feel limited-scale pilot projects are appropriate. I predict that the first incontrovertible evidence of computerized vote manipulation will be associated with military and overseas internet voting efforts, and it’s not hard to imagine a down-ticket ballot question as being the focus of such an attack.

Should we re-think our forays into computerized voting? Definitely not. In my opinion, this is more a question of responsible uses of technology in elections than a black or white decision about using computerized voting systems or not. There is much good that stems from the use of computerized voting systems, including improved accessibility for the disabled and voters who don’t speak English, improved usability of ballots on-screen versus what can be accomplished on paper, and the speed and accuracy of computerized vote counts on election night. However, these voting systems must be recountable and auditable, and those audits must be conducted after each election in such a way that we limit the risk of an incorrect candidate or ballot measure being certified as the winner.

In contrast to the beginning of the past decade, when election officials were swimming in federal money for the purchase of equipment and trying to spend these funds before a looming deadline, what we really need is regular commitments of federal funding to improve local election administration. With a sustained source of federal funds to budget and plan for technology upgrades, the market will be stable, rather than going through the upheaval of mergers and dissolutions we have recently seen. Elections are perhaps the most poorly funded of all of the critical elements of democracy in the U.S., and we get what we pay for.

joe-hallJoseph Lorenzo Hall is a postdoctoral researcher at the UC Berkeley School of Information and a visiting postdoctoral fellow at the Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy. His Ph.D. thesis examined electronic voting as a critical case study in the transparency of digital government systems.

VoxPopuLII is edited by Judith Pratt. Editor in chief is Robert Richards.