Ritual and Rhythm in Electoral Systems: a Comparative Legal Account
Election Law, Politics and Theory Series (Ashgate Publishing), 2015
6 Pages Posted: 21 Mar 2015
Date Written: March 20, 2015
This is the preface to a book which develops a freshj theoretical understanding of the importance of electoral democracy and the institutions and rules regulating it. Traditional democratic and public law theory treats election law and institutions such as election day and voting from either instrumental (anti-corruption, game theory) or liberal (political equality, freedom) perspectives. But electoral democracy is nothing if not an event, experienced directly and mediated. Electoral politics has its own rhythms and seasons, set by constitutional law, and the rites of campaigns, polling and the declaration of electoral winners and losers are governed by administrative practice and traditions.
This book traverses practical questions such as 'why do we vote in schools?', 'what is the social meaning of secret balloting?', 'what is lost if we vote by mail, pre-poll or computers rather than on election day'? and 'how does the electoral cycle generate the theatre of election night and inaugurations?' It traverses these questions from historical and contemporary perspectives, drawing on comparative law and practice to argue for the importance of attending to the ritual of the everyday.
The book has been described as 'masterly - imaginative in conception, brilliantly executed and above all beautifully written' (Keith Ewing, Kings College London), an 'engaging, thoroughly researched interpretation of the tenor and cadence of the rituals of electoral politics' (Ron Hirschbein, California State University), 'required reading for constitutional lawyers and electoral administrators' (Stephen Coleman, University of Leeds), and as having 'a near sacerdotal intensity ... a profound study in what might be called the 'jurispathology' of everyday electoral life' (William MacNeil, Griffith University).
Its chapters are: 1. Reflections on Elections, 2. Electoral Ritual Conceptualised, 3. Rhythms: the When of the Electoral Cycle, 4. Convenience Voting: Deconstructing Election Day, 5. Electoral Choice: the Who and Why of Voting, 6. The How of Voting, 7. The Where of Voting, 8. Electoral Entertainments: Alcohol, 9. Electoral Entertainments: Wagering, 10. The Climax: the Election Night and the Count, 11. The Aftermath: Challenges and Inaugurations, 12. Conclusion: Ritual and Electoral Health.
Keywords: election law, sociology of law, public law theory, democratic ritual
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