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Why Election Reform Stalls

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Molly Reynolds, the Senior Research Coordinator of the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project (of which Why Tuesday? board member Norm Ornstein is co-director) has a fantastic piece online about why election reform efforts in the United States constantly are stalling out. The main reason? The public doesn’t seem to care, because they don’t seem to notice.

Reynolds’ thesis is nicely summarized with a quote by then-Senator Barack Obama at the end of her piece:

Indeed, at the launch of the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project in 2006, then-Senator Barack Obama captured several of these dynamics of public opinion on potential changes to our election system. “Election reform,” he said, “is one of these issues where America has a tendency to go from shock to trance. We’re shocked right after an election when the news reports horror stories about disenfranchisement and intimidation and suppression; there’s a public outcry; there’s a flurry of legislation; but then the politics gets tough and the problems aren’t solved and pretty soon everyone forgets about it until the next electoral crisis.” Having avoided such widespread shocks in recent years, the nation remains in a trance of sorts and, as a result, any efforts to enact the types of reform proposals being touted by policy elites will collide with a neutral-at-best, resistant-at-worst public. While the expression of the public’s opinions is problematic enough that it should not completely deter reformers from pursuing their goals, it does, nonetheless, add one more hurdle to an already uphill battle.

For the complete article, visit the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project.

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