Election Law and Civil Discourse: The Promise of ADR
30 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2011 Last revised: 22 May 2012
Date Written: June 23, 2011
This Essay, stemming from a Symposium put on by the Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution on election law and alternative dispute resolution, contrasts negative language in election law court decisions with ADR's collaborative and cooperative approach. I first demonstrate how election law court decisions often include highly caustic language, which, when repeated in the media, can contribute to our overall negative public discourse. I then explain how systems of alternative dispute resolution start with a foundation of cooperation and are less adversarial than traditional litigation. Finally, I combine these concepts to discuss how, by using the collaborative spirit underlying ADR, we can resolve election law challenges in a less adversarial manner and thereby improve our civil discourse. My goal is not to advocate for the use of ADR in all election law cases. Instead, I hope to issue a “call to arms” for election litigants to think about how they can resolve their disputes with greater civility. This, in turn, will produce fewer court opinions with negative language and less opportunity for the media to exploit election controversies. The upshot will be an improvement in our public discourse surrounding elections.
Keywords: election, voting, election disputes, political discourse, civic discourse, ADR
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