Election Law as Applied Democratic Theory
James A. Gardner
University at Buffalo Law School
September 15, 2011
St. Louis University Law Journal, Forthcoming
Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-031
Democracy does not implement itself; a society’s commitment to govern itself democratically can be effectuated only through law. Yet as soon as law appears on the scene significant choices must be made concerning the legal structure of democratic institutions. The heart of the study of election law is thus the examination of the choices that our laws make in seeking to structure a workable system of democratic self-rule. In this essay, written for a symposium on Teaching Election Law, I describe how my Election Law course and materials focus on questions of choice in institutional design by emphasizing election law’s connection to two fields with which it is inextricably allied: democratic theory and empirical political science. This enriched context reveals election law for what it truly is: the institution that bridges the gap between our aspirations for, and the frequently messy reality of, our political lives. It is the middle term in an equation that specifies whether and to what extent we realize perhaps the most significant dream of contemporary human beings: to live well under a just and lasting democracy.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 17
Keywords: democracy, democratic theory, elections, election law
Date posted: October 5, 2011
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