In 2006, the Tobin Project launched its Institutions of Democracy initiative, which examined the intersection between elections, law, and politics, as one of its first research inquiries. In June of the following year, Tobin convened a working group on democracy and asked each participant to come with a concrete idea that could improve elections policy. Heather Gerken (Yale Law School), an early leader of the initiative, suggested the idea of a “democracy index,” which would rank states by the performance of their elections systems. Since that meeting, Heather’s proposal has expanded into a large research project, an award-winning book, and tangible policy reform. Read more about the Democracy Index »

This early working group made important contributions to the field, developing and publishing innovative ideas, and to the Tobin Project’s model, continuously experimenting and refining the approach to meetings and research. In 2009, with the American Law Institute, the Tobin Project convened an interdisciplinary group of leading scholars and policymakers to produce new research and test ideas at a conference on “The Future of Elections Scholarship: Policy Challenges & A Research Agenda for Reform.” Ultimately, the papers prepared for this conference culminated in the publication of an edited volume, published by Cambridge University Press in 2011, entitled Race, Reform, and Regulation of the Electoral Process: Recurring Puzzles in American Democracy (eds. Guy-Uriel Charles, Heather Gerken, & Michael Kang).

This work in elections scholarship yielded important insight into the operations of democracy and has inspired a broader inquiry at the Tobin Project into democratic governance in the United States. The Tobin Project is pursuing this new line of inquiry, seeking to more fully understand the social, economic, and political factors that influence democratic practice, and to use this knowledge to address the challenges faced by democracies today.