The Supreme Court and Election Law: A Reply to Three Commentators

26 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2004 Last revised: 25 Jul 2013

See all articles by Richard L. Hasen

Richard L. Hasen

University of California, Irvine School of Law


The Journal of Legislation and Notre Dame Law School invited three distinguished scholars to comment on my recent book, "The Supreme Court and Election Law: Judging Equality from Baker v. Carr to Bush v. Gore" (NYU Press 2003), and have kindly given me this chance to reply. After a brief summary of the main points of my book, I focus on what I consider to be the central critical claim of each commentator. Professor John Nagle gently suggests that election law itself may not be a coherent field of study, noting that much election law jurisprudence appears to turn on matters of appearance over that of substance. Professor Luis Fuentes-Rohwer agrees with much of my analysis, but argues that I do not go far enough - suggesting that the logical end-point of my argument is for the Supreme Court to extricate itself from the political thicket entirely. Professor Guy-Uriel E. Charles argues that my distinction between core and contested equality rights eliminates any purpose for judicial review and is too difficult to put into practice.

In this Reply, I defend my approach. Professor Nagle is right that the Court often strays from the right path when it decides election law cases on appearances alone, but he fails to recognize how conceiving of election law synthetically informs Court decisionmaking on issues such as the justiciability of partisan gerrymandering claims. Professor Fuentes-Rohwer's general suggestion of Court exit from the political thicket has much to commend it in the abstract, but he fails to evaluate my proposal as a second best approach, particularly compared to the main alternative floating around election law circles today, the structuralist approach that focuses on appropriate political competition. Finally, Professor Charles puts his finger on the most difficult aspect of my book, and I welcome his decision to take my proposed distinction between core and contested equality claims seriously.

Keywords: election law, gerrymandering, campaign finance

Suggested Citation

Hasen, Richard L., The Supreme Court and Election Law: A Reply to Three Commentators. Loyola-LA Legal Studies Paper No. 2004-19. Available at SSRN: or

Richard L. Hasen (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

401 E. Peltason Drive
Suite 1000
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States
949 824 3072 (Phone)
949 824 0895 (Fax)


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