Short Course: Pluralism and Reform Politics: Achieving Multi-Racial, Multi-Party Democracy

Pluralism and Reform Politics: Achieving Multi-Racial, Multi-Party Democracy

Full Day, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Washington State Convention Center, Room 611

We propose this mini-conference because we share Dr. Pippa Norris’ concern about the future of electoral integrity in the U.S.: “Americans will steadily lose faith in the rules of the electoral game if it turns out that players see only a zero-sum contest in which opponents cheat. Where will we be then?” The following section chairs have agreed to co-sponsor the course and help organize content: Susan Burges, The Law and Courts; Race, Bernard Fraga, Ethnicity and Politics; Heather Stoll, Representation and Electoral Systems.

Pippa Norris and Holly Ann Garnett, Director of the Perceptions of Electoral Integrity Project, have also agreed to participate in the event, along with Dr. Matthew Shugart, among the world’s leading experts in electoral system design. We are planning a pre-conference meeting this summer to initiate a conversation about speakers and participants for the APSA course. We are also building organizational and financial support from the Union of Concerned Scientists, the New America Foundation, and donor organizations engaged in democracy promotion. This support will help us 1) bring in the expertise of international experts in democracy reform and 2) support the participation of young and emerging research scholars doing work in this space.

The course can also serve as a preliminary meeting for a Task Force Project on Political Reform. We propose separating the course and project into the following challenge sections:

Challenge: Understanding the Political Crisis in the U.S.
This challenge will address the underlying economic, demographic and ideological causes of the rise of right-wing authoritarianism in the U.S. Experts in race, ethnicity, gender and political ideology will provide a landscape for understanding he current crisis in representation. In addition, we will take in a view from the outside, bringing in the perspective of international democracy building organizations and experts who have been involved with institutional reform in other countries.

Challenge: Securing Voting Rights for All
Many legal and normative questions surround both the efficacy of voting rights reforms such as voter registration and eligibility requirements, election rules, ballot access, ballot design, early mail and in-person voting, and ballot verification procedures, as well as Congress’ authority to require or implement such regulations. Felon enfranchisement, voting age and citizenship requirements should also be evaluated under this challenge area. This challenge section will also welcome the participation of election administrators and practitioners who can contribute to our understanding of how to achieve cross-ideological policy objectives.

Challenge: Political Parties and Reform Coalitions
There is also considerable uncertainty over the role that political parties and leaders are likely to play in reform efforts and the necessary organization building that is required for such efforts to succeed. What are the costs and benefits of particular reforms to existing movements and parties, and potentially new parties? What is the potential role of Black Lives Matter and other reform organizations playing a major role in current policy reform movements? What do potential reform coalitions look like and how do group goals overlap and conflict? What role do funding organizations play and how might their goals be distinct from reformers?

Challenge: Improving Electoral and Party System Performance
Every electoral system has its own virtues and pathologies, and this section would explore those trade-offs in the context of U.S. political institutions and culture. The focus would primarily be on comparisons and trade-offs to more proportional system reforms that have already been widely proposed: single-winner rank choice voting (IRV), single-transferable vote (STV), open-list proportional representation (OLPR), and multi-member proportional (MMP). How well would such reforms fit, both institutionally and politically, with other institutions, and how would they impact the U.S. party system? What recommendations are most viable for election of the House, the Senate, and the Executive?

Challenge: Institutional Reforms Beyond Elections
The final section would explore reforms linked to but distinct from electoral reform, including the policymaking process, and how changes to that process would shape the rendering of representation. Expanding the size of the House, restructuring the committee system, reforming executive and judicial authority, and other institutional reforms will be assessed.

The course will conclude with an assessment of concrete recommendations from each of the challenge areas, the design of a task force report, expectations for completion of the report, a public outreach strategy, and planning for presentation to public and other officials and organizations.