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POLSC333: Campaigns and Elections

Unit 7: Electoral Reform   No electoral system is without flaws; the United States has seen (and will continue to see) a number of electoral reforms designed to rectify its “imperfect” system.  Some of these changes were obvious “quick fixes” to clearly undemocratic practices.  Others are less obvious and tend to spark a great deal of debate within the public policy arena.  In this unit, you will first look at some of the electoral changes that have been enacted historically.  Many of these changes were implemented with the intention of developing a more open and democratic political system.  However, many still feel that reforms are necessary; reforms are constantly proposed and debated in the public arena and within government.  In the second half of this unit, you will take a closer look at some of these proposed reforms and their potential for implementation.  By the end of this unit, you should be aware that the American electoral system, like all electoral systems, is not perfect and that reform will continue to be an ongoing debate.

Unit 7 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 17 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 7.1: 2 hours
☐    Subunit 7.2: 0.75 hour
☐    Subunit 7.3: 5.5 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 7.3.1: 1.5 hours
☐    Sub-subunit 7.3.2: 0.75 hour
☐    Sub-subunit 7.3.3: 2.25 hours
☐    Sub-subunit 7.3.4: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 7.4: 9 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 7.4.1: 3 hours
☐    Sub-subunit 7.4.2: 4.5 hours
☐    Sub-subunit 7.4.3: 1.5 hours

 

Unit7 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Describe the historical evolution of election reform.
  • Compare and contrast contemporary electoral reform proposals.
  • Assess the impact of potential changes to the electoral system.

7.1 Electoral Reform: Changes Over Time   7.1.1 President and Vice Presidential Election   - Reading: CRS Report for Congress: Thomas H. Neale's: “Election of the President and Vice President by Congress: Contingent Election” Link: CRS Report for Congress: Thomas H. Neale's: “Election of the President and Vice President by Congress: Contingent Election” (HTML)
           
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read this entire webpage.  How did the 12th Amendment rectify the flaws in the original design of the Electoral College (as evidenced by the 1800 presidential election)?
 
Reading and answering the question above should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

7.1.2 Progressive Era (1900–1920) Election Reforms   - Reading: Christopher Morin's: “The Progressive Era: Government & Election Reform” Link: Christopher Morin's: “The Progressive Era: Government & Election Reform” (PowerPoint)
 
Instructions: Please click the “Political Reform” link under the “PowerPoint Presentations” section, and then read this entire presentation (24 slides) about early 20th-century electoral reforms. 

 This reading should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: United States Senate: “Direct Election of Senators” Link: United States Senate: “Direct Election of Senators” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read this entire webpage.  Over the last few years, the push to repeal the 17th Amendment has gained traction among many conservative groups.  The argument in favor of repeal is that it would increase the power of the states in the political process and have elected officials who, presumably, would care primarily about the state’s interest over the “corrupting” influence of wealthy corporate donors.  Do you agree with this position?  Why, or why not?
     
    Reading and answering the questions above should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
      
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: ThisNation.com: Shad Satterthwaite's: “How Did Party Conventions Come About and What Purpose Do They Serve?” Link: ThisNation.com: Shad Satterthwaite's:“How Did Party Conventions Come About and What Purpose Do They Serve?” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read this entire webpage. 

    This reading should take approximately 25-30 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

7.2 Electoral Reform: Direct Democracy   7.2.1 Initiatives and Referenda   - Reading: Initiative & Referendum Institute: M. Dane Waters' : “A Brief: The History of the Initiative and Referendum Process in the United States” Link: Initiative & Referendum Institute: M. Dane Waters' : “A Brief: The History of the Initiative and Referendum Process in the United States” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, choose “History of the initiative process” from the “I & R Quick Facts” dropdown menu on the lower-left side of the page, and then read this entire PDF (10 pages).
 
This reading should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

7.2.2 Voter Recall   - Reading: Los Angeles Times: Nicholas Riccardi's: “Recall Elections Surge in Local and State Government” Link: Los Angeles Times: Nicholas Riccardi's: “Recall Elections Surge in Local and State Government” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read this entire webpage.  This reading should take approximately 15 minutes to complete.
                       
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

7.3 Electoral Reform: Current Proposals   7.3.1 The Electoral College: Outdated or Necessary?   - Reading: Congressional Research Service: Thomas H. Neale's: “Electoral College Reform: 111th Congress Proposals and Other Current Developments” Link: Congressional Research Service: Thomas H. Neale's: “Electoral College Reform: 111th Congress Proposals and Other Current Developments” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, scroll down to find the link for this reading (November 4, 2009), and then read this entire PDF (34 pages).  Which reform proposal would you consider to be the most practical and/or effective?
 
Reading and answering the question above should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete.
  
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

7.3.2 The Help America Vote Act   - Reading: Congressional Research Service: Kevin J. Coleman and Eric A. Fischer's: “The Help America Vote Act and Elections Reform: Overview and Issues” Link: Congressional Research Service: Kevin J. Coleman and Eric A. Fisher's: “The Help America Vote Act and Elections Reform: Overview and Issues” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, scroll down to find the link for this reading (June 27, 2011), and then read this entire PDF (14 pages).
 
This reading should take approximately 45 minutes to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

7.3.3 Campaign Reforms: Shorter Campaigns and Public Financing   - Web Media: iTunes: National Constitution Center: “We the People” Stories: “What’s Your Primary Concern?” Link: iTunes: National Constitution Center: “We the People” Stories: “What’s Your Primary Concern?” (iTunes)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, select “View in iTunes” for the lecture titled “What’s Your Primary Concern?” 4/27/08, and then listen to this entire podcast (approximately 55 minutes), which features a panel discussion on the presidential primary process.  Do you think the current process is fair?  Should it be changed? If so, how?
 
Viewing this lecture and answering the questions above should take approximately 1 hour to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Center for Governmental Studies: Steven M. Levin's: “Keeping It Clean: Public Financing in American Elections” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

    Submit Materials

7.3.4 Diminishing Corporate Influence?: The Citizens United Ruling   - Web Media: Utne Reader: Will Wlizlo's: “The Story of Citizens United” Link: Utne Reader: Will Wlizlo's: “The Story of Citizens United” (Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and watch this entire video (approximately 9 minutes) about Citizens United, a nonprofit political group that challenged provisions of the federal campaign law—specifically, the provision that banned speech expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate.  The Supreme Court ruled in the group’s favor, stating that corporate speech should be offered the same protection as individual speech.  Do you believe the court ruled correctly in this case?  Why, or why not?
 
Viewing this lecture and answering the questions above should take approximately 15 minutes to complete.
  
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Institute for Policy Studies: Salvatore Babones’s “Corporate Campaign Spending: They Get What They Pay for” Link: Institute for Policy Studies: Salvatore Babones’s “Corporate Campaign Spending: They Get What They Pay for” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read this article. 
     
    Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use:This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License. It is attributed to Salvatore Babones and the original version can be found here.

  • Web Media: Democracy Now: “Campaign Cash: The Independent Fundraising Gold Rush Since Citizens United Ruling” Link: Democracy Now: “Campaign Cash: The Independent Fundraising Gold Rush Since Citizens United Ruling” (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: Please watch this video, starting at minute 13.

    Viewing this lecture should take approximately 20 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

7.4 Election Reform: Potential Changes   7.4.1 Learning from the 2000 Election: Election Administration, Balloting, and Vote Counting   - Reading: FindLaw: National Commission on Election Reform Final Report: “To Assure Pride and Confidence in the Electoral Process” Link: FindLaw: National Commission on Election Reform Final Report: “To Assure Pride and Confidence in the Electoral Process” (HTML or PDF)
 
Instructions: Please click the second link under the “Election 2000” section and then read pages 17–73.  As a result of the contentious presidential election of 2000, the commission—co-chaired by former presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford—was formed to evaluate election reform and put forth policy recommendations to Congress and the president.

 This reading should take approximately 3 hours to complete.  
              
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
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7.4.2 Voter Registration   - Reading: Project Vote: Estelle H. Rogers' : “The National Voter Registration Act at Fifteen: A Report to Congress” Link: Project Vote: Estelle H. Rogers' : “The National Voter Registration Act at Fifteen: A Report to Congress” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, select the link for the article “The National Voter Registration Act at Fifteen: A Report to Congress,” and then read this entire PDF (41 pages).
 
This reading should take approximately 2 hours to complete.
  
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Brennan Center for Justice: Justin Levitt's: “The Truth about Voter Fraud” Link: Brennan Center for Justice: Justin Levitt's: “The Truth about Voter Fraud”  (PDF
     
    Instructions: Please click on the link above, select the “Download Entire Publication Here” link, and then read this entire PDF (50 pages).
     
    This reading should take approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete.
      
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

7.4.3 Internet Voting   - Reading: University of Michigan: Dana Walker's: “Voting in Your Underwear: The Promise, Perils and Policy Implications of Exercising the Franchise on the Internet” Link: University of Michigan: Dana Walker's: “Voting in Your Underwear: The Promise, Perils and Policy Implications of Exercising the Franchise on the Internet” (PDF)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above, scroll down to the
“Selected Unpublished Papers” to find this reading, and then read
this entire PDF (29 pages).  

 This reading should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to
complete.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.