PUBPOL 495 is open to students in the Public Policy BA program, by permission only.
Most American government textbooks and a wide array of democracy-promoting organizations would agree that the “free and fair election” is the hallmark of a representative democracy. But what is a “free and fair” election? Are elections fair when a minority of the eligible voting population routinely selects local and state representatives? Are elections free when running and campaigning requires an investment of time, money, or networks that the average citizen cannot command? In this seminar, we will examine the various forms that elections take throughout the world, and explore how different reforms favor specific groups or specific opinions. We’ll consider reforms that affect who votes (mandatory voting, non-citizen voting, age, language, and literacy tests); who or what you vote for (lottery voting, list voting by party or identity group, issue voting); how many votes you get (ranked choice and cumulative voting); how you vote (voter registration, vote by mail/online, absentee voting); and what you can do besides voting (deliberative democracy). We’ll also look at candidate selection and the rules that influence who runs and how they finance their campaigns. The races and issues on the November 2016 ballot will be explored throughout the class, and students will have the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of election-related activities.