Election Law as Applied Democratic Theory

17 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2011

Date Written: September 15, 2011


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.

Keywords: democracy, democratic theory, elections, election law

Suggested Citation

Gardner, James A., Election Law as Applied Democratic Theory (September 15, 2011). St. Louis University Law Journal, Forthcoming; Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-031. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1937899

James A. Gardner (Contact Author)

University at Buffalo Law School ( email )

Room 514, O'Brian Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260-1100
United States
716-645-3607 (Phone)
716-645-2064 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.buffalo.edu

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