how rules effect elections

how rules effect elections

Let’s take a break from focusing on the presidential candidates and expand our view to explore American elections more systematically. One fundamental task of political science, like all social sciences, is to gain a better understanding of causality—in other words, to identify the causes of human behavior and the effects of that behavior. This can be done by looking at psychological, historical, philosophical/ideological, social, economic, and cultural influences, among others. But political science has a special interest in rules because governments are created based on the assumption that structures and laws can incentivize (or create a disincentive for) certain types of behavior and therefore bring about certain outcomes. So what sorts of rules are involved in the electoral system? Who’s behavior do they affect and how? What is the relationship between these rules, the behavior of the various actors involved, and outcomes? What sorts of outcomes are we talking about? Clearly there are many interconnected sub-questions to consider as part of this research puzzle.

 

As always, the first step in attacking a research puzzle is to unpack it. First, what rules are we talking about? We could consider the Electoral College, the single-member plurality district voting that determines the elections of Senators and House members, campaign financing laws and court decisions, how party primary elections work, how voting actually occurs on election day, which states allow ballot measures and why, and other topics that concern rules. Whose behaviors might we look at? Possibilities include the candidates themselves and how they campaign, political parties, campaign financing donors, media, voters in general or specific types of voters, and others. And what sorts of outcomes could we focus on? Obviously the results of elections is one, but that could be presidential elections, primary elections, Senate elections, House elections, state or local elections, and state ballot measures. Additional outcomes of political behavior could include government dysfunction within Congress and/or between Congress and the Presidency, increasing partisan polarization, the further fragmentation of parties, voter turnout, the amount and type of campaign contributions, dissatisfied voters, disenfranchised voters, types of media coverage, and many others.

 

The goal when addressing this research puzzle is to gain a better understanding of the rules involved, to explore their influence, and to demonstrate their impact. The sources included below will get you started…

 

 

Required Readings — please read in this order:

If not linked, then can be found posted in the “Course Readings” section of Blackboard

 

“Single Member Plurality Systems,” FairVote, accessed September 24, 2016.

Shea, Daniel M. ““Legal Developments in American Elections,” in Let’s Vote: The Essentials of the American Electoral Process. New York: Pearson (2012), pp. 39-70.

Streb, Mathew J. “The Redistricting Process,” in Rethinking American Electoral Democracy. New York: Routledge (2016), pp. 117-127, also see citations at the end of the chapter.

Streb, Mathew J. “Presidential Primaries,” in Rethinking American Electoral Democracy. New York: Routledge (2016), pp. 139-149 (don’t worry about it ending in middle of sentence), also see citations at the end of the chapter.

Streb, Mathew J. “The Electoral College,” in Rethinking American Electoral Democracy. New York: Routledge (2016), pp. 160-169, also see citations at the end of the chapter.

Streb, Mathew J. “Campaign Finance,” in Rethinking American Electoral Democracy. New York: Routledge (2016), pp. 181-190 (half of last page), also see citations at the end of the chapter.

“Learning Center,” Center for Responsive Politics, accessed September 24, 2016. [It is important to take the time to explore all of the various parts of this website.]

“Ballot Measures,” Ballotpedia, accessed September 24, 2016.

Recommended Readings (all appeared on the last essay as either required or recommended):

Totenberg, Nina. “Stricter Voter ID And Other Voting Laws Rolled Back In Slew Of Court Decisions,” NPR, August 5, 2016.

Associated Press. “Study: Voter ID laws hit minorities,” Politico, October 9, 2014.

Berman, Ari. “Block The Vote: A Journalist Discusses Voting Rights And Restrictions,” NPR, August 10, 2016.

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