Election Commissions and Democratic Decline

This paper considers the role that election commissions may play in facilitating or resisting democratic decline. Common across cases of decline are attempts by regimes to capture or eliminate independent institutions that have the capacity to check political power. Capture of the judiciary is a well-recognized tool of would-be authoritarians. This paper argues that similar incentives exist for regimes to capture independent election commissions. Capture of election commissions has been a relatively unstudied aspect of the story of democratic decline. The actions of these commissions may, and often do, determine the result of elections. Capturing election commissions is therefore a key tool for regimes seeking to consolidate power while keeping the legitimacy that comes from continued elections. This paper defines the phenomenon of election commission capture and theorizes about its role in democratic decline, drawing on cases such as Hungary, Poland, Turkey, and South Africa.

Shotgun Referendums: Popular Deliberation in Constested Regions

Much deliberative democracy theory examines the capacity of public institutions to promote governance by deliberation instead of bald coercion. Recent works have even examined the prospects for deliberation during an exercise long thought to be paradigmatically anti-deliberative: referendum voting. Tierney, Fishkin, Kildea, and Levy have assessed the possibilities of designing ‘deliberative referendums’. Yet these past works have seldom strayed from the comfort zone of stable polities with relatively homogenous commitments to liberal-democratic principles. This project sets out to assess the plausibility of using deliberative referendums to achieve lasting constitutional settlements in conflict regions. ‘Shotgun referendums’ refer to referendums/plebiscites in regions such as Crimea, Hong Kong, and (aspirationally) Israel-Palestine. Depending on their design, and on the intentions of their creators, shotgun referendums can either help to resolve or catalyse conflict.

Why the U.S. Supreme Court Should Recognize a Compelling State Interest in Preserving Candidate Time

There are just not enough hours in the day to get the job done! This type of “time drought” identified by cognitive scientists takes on democratic significance if the person experiencing it is a democratically elected official. Those elected officials may thereby lack the ability to effectively represent the constituents who put them in office. For federal elected officials, one of the causes of the lack of time to craft policy (the job) is caused by political fundraising burdens (the distraction). As one Congressman put it bluntly, campaign fundraising has become an incredible “time suck” for lawmakers. And yet, the Roberts Supreme Court seems particularly tone deaf to arguments about preserving the ability of a non-wealthy incumbent elected officials to do their official duties under Article I of the Constitution.