Pildes: Where Should Election

Pildes: Where Should Election Reformers Target Their Efforts?

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Rick Pildes, ELECTION LAW BLOG, 6/32/10. LOS ANGELES — Here is one suggestion: the reform community and supportive foundations should select a single state to focus on as a focal point for election-reform efforts. This will require overcoming the all too common tendency to focus on the national level. There are both positive and negative reasons for the desirability of focusing efforts at the state level. On the positive side, most of the nuts and bolts of election administration take place at the state level. Given risk aversion, reforms are only likely to be adopted at the national level once they have been tested and perfected at the state level. Moreover, the ability to turn to direct democracy initiatives in some states creates the shadow of a threat over legislators (or ways to bypass them) that does not exist at the national level. Much like Brandeis recognized that social security programs had to begin at the state level, we should recognize the same for major electoral reform. On the negative side, given the partisan divides in national politics, it is unlikely any meaningful reforms can be adopted nationally. Even beyond that political obstacle, national reforms, if any, are likely to be cast at such a high level of generality that, even could they be adopted, they are unlikely to have enough genuine substantive content to be more than credit-claiming actions with little bite. Read More