Elections and Democracy in the United States

3 credits


Political Science
College of Arts and Science

This is a class on United States election processes and their relationship to democratic governance. By election processes I mean the rules and procedures under which elections are contested. These include franchise, balloting methods, vote aggregation rules, apportionment, districting and related subjects. The class does not engage public opinion, partisanship, voter choice and other subjects typically classified as political behaviors. Elections are a means to an end; that end is normatively defensible democratic governance. Consequently, we discuss these subjects in the context of American democratic thought and ideals. Election processes can either contribute towards our democratic goals and aspirations or detract from them. More precisely, different election methods privilege different democratic values. To understand whether United States elections work well or poorly one must understand the democratic ideals that have most deeply influenced the American experience. We study election processes from a historical development perspective informed by political thought. However, our assessment of United States elections is deeply informed by contemporary theory and empirical analysis.