The Future of Elections Scholarship

The Tobin Project’s research inquiry on "The Future of Elections Scholarship," initiated in 2006, aimed to develop and disseminate high-quality research about elections, voting, and associated challenges in a democracy. A series of working group meetings between 2006 and 2008 helped to refine the focus of this initiative and, with input from the policy community, to guide scholars’ thinking toward the most pressing issues in the field. Ultimately, the research effort homed in on the question: How can the current safeguards, intended to assure the integrity of the electoral process, evolve to meet the challenges posed by rapid social and economic changes – from rising ethnic diversity and economic inequality to the growing scale of campaign funding?

To begin to address this question, in 2009 the Tobin Project convened leading scholars from the disciplines of law, political science, public policy, and history together with an exemplary group of policymakers, including senior state officials, state and federal judges, and the general counsels for both John McCain’s and Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaigns. The research generated by this 2009 conference benefited from the rich exchange of ideas across disciplinary boundaries and with policymakers.

In 2011, this research was published in Race, Reform, and Regulation of the Electoral Process: Recurring Puzzles in American Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 2011). The research therein provides new thinking and contributes to a better understanding of how U.S. elections function, how the obstacles to informed participation are evolving, and how judicial and legislative reform can best foster a healthy democracy. 

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