Friday, June 15, 2007
Setting the Agenda for Scholarship on Election Reform
Heather K. Gerken
Part I: The "Just Add Water" Problem
Heather, I sincerely look forward to your upcoming posts.
If I have had any major objection to the reforms (not only in terms of the election system, but also the broader problem of constitutional reform) that have been periodically proposed on this site, it has been that the "here to there" problem is largely ignored. It suffices to say, perhaps, that one would need a constitutional convention, but arguing the necessity of such a convention and developing a strategy to bring it into fruition are two different processes.
For this reason, I'm very happy to read this post, and hope that it does indeed encourage the sort of grounded, tactical proposals (like the Democracy Index) that provide practical approaches to specific problems. They may not culminate in the utopian's preferred model, but at least they begin progress towards those ideals.
Bravo! I think this is going to be extremely valuable.
If there needs to be an academic subdiscipline to study the how-to-get-there-from-here of election administration and/or governance reform, it might be a better fit in political science departments than in law schools. Or is that statement a heresy that will get me banned from Balkinization for life?
Reforming election administration is, to me, different from reforming governance. The partisanship of officials, security/integrity, and vote suppression (both deliberate and careless), are examples of the former. Public financing of campaigns and electoral reform (IRV, Electoral College) are examples of the latter. Perhaps redistricting includes elements of both.
I wonder whether the how-to-get-there differs accordingly. The Citizens' Assembly model (which I support enthusiastically) clearly applies to governance reform. The "democracy index" wedge (which I have reservations about) clearly applies to administration.
I eagerly await the future installments, and thank Prof. Gerken in advance for posting them.
Nice to see you posting here, Heather! Somehow I had missed your previous post. I look forward to an interesting series.
It ain't that hard. Elect me, and I'll fix it. Honest! :]
I had brief consversation with a person in my state's Elections office (don't recall the official name for it), and she was unaware of the fact that the "paper trail" proposal is easily defeated.
At any rate, this should be interesting. But -- hey -- elect me and you can all relax while I fix it as a Roving expert.
I share the enthusiasm for Heather's posts, but, as someone inclined to be less temperate than she is, I'm also tempted to say that "immoderates" also serve a function, ultimately by raising the specter of untoward events should reform not take place. Proposal of the Seventeenth Amendment, for example, was considerably aided by the specter of state's calling for a constitutional convention should Senate mossbacks not realize that the day of legislative selection of senators was past.
The Fair Vote initiate, by which the larger states are trying to derail the electoral college, is also extremely valuable, though I in fact am not a fan of the specific proposal, which simply maintais the first-past-the-post structure of our electoral system. Far better, I think, either the alternative transferrable vote of the French two-stage election. But if more states pass the Fair Vote proposal, I suspect that even Congress may start paying some attention.
I am curious, though, whether Heather regards Fair Vote as within her "here to there" camp.
"Here to There": First step, it seems to me, is raise consciousness that these "self-interested politicians" have extraordinarily high levels of conflicts of interest, enough to easily result in disqualification in other contexts, by virtue of the fact that the vote on the circumstances of THEIR OWN RE-ELECTIONS. Case In point: Due to amendments in the House Administration Committee on May 8, 2007, HR 811 now contains, for the first time, legislative authorization/recognition of trade secret vote counting software and legally mandates nondisclosure agreements for those who view source code that counts the public's votes. In direct effect, the House and Senate would be legislatively ratifying what has previously been only contractual: secret vote counting on electronic machines, and by doing so effectively claiming that we the people want to hide the vote counting FROM OURSELVES, not deeming it in our interests to have any chance of being apprised as to whether the counting was proper or not. This is hardly the position of the public, which in an August 2006 Zogby poll indicated support of 92% for OBSERVABLE vote counting systems over their alternatives.Post a Comment
How to stop Congress from legislating that their own re-elections be counted in secret backrooms of electronics? We can start with pointing a spotlight at the conflict of interest here which to varying degrees is present whenever all incumbents (and by definition no challengers) vote on the means by which they will be challenged in the next election.