This course examines the laws that structure the American democratic system. Topics include voting rights, redistricting, campaign finance, and the regulation of political parties. The course addresses the key constitutional principles and statutory provisions that govern these areas, with particular emphasis on recent legal developments—including issues unfolding during the current 2016 election cycle. In addition to covering doctrine, the course focuses on the theoretical underpinnings of the electoral system, the role of courts in overseeing the system, and proposals for reform. Prior or concurrent enrollment in Constitutional Law I and/or II is recommended but not required. Students will write short response papers during the semester. There will also be a final paper project or a take-home exam, depending on final course enrollment. Active class participation is expected.
By the end of this course, you should be able to:
• Understand and apply the key legal doctrines and rules that structure our democratic system, including the law governing the right to vote, electoral districting, political parties, and the financing of campaigns;
• Recognize the complex ways in which our laws of democracy interact with one another and shape our politics and policies;
• Appreciate the dilemmas the judiciary faces when asked to intervene in democratic disputes;
• Grapple in a sophisticated way with the benefits and drawbacks of our legal regime and of proposed reforms and alternatives.