Doug Chapin (adjunct)

Spring 2005 – 1 credit




PHILOSOPHY: Election administration is literally in its infancy both as a profession and as a subject of legal and scholarly study … my goal in the next seven weeks is to provide you with the basics in terms of the current “state of play” as well as future topics for reform. [If I can convince even one of you to consider a career in election administration it’ll be a bonus.]


Prepare. We won’t be briefing cases or learning any formal doctrine you have to memorize and regurgitate, but there will be several key issues each week that we’ll discuss in class. All of us (you, your classmates, and I) will get more out of our limited time each week if you at least read through the material and think about the suggested discussion questions BEFORE class. A basic syllabus is below – I’ll make sure to either bring materials to class or post assignments no later than Thursday morning before the next class;

Participate. This is not a class where copious notes will be helpful or necessary – I’d rather we had a vigorous discussion about the various issues involved. For that reason, I’d like everyone to speak up -- each week, if possible; and 

Write a paper. The one required “output” for this course will be a paper.
TOPIC: A few months ago, in response to the post-election debate about election reform, I made the suggestion that it may be time to

establish a national community on election administration -- informed by scholarship and disseminated through professional education, model rules, regulations, etc. -- that will inform election officials, policymakers and all other stakeholders of certain "national standards" of election administration (akin to medical standards of care or legal professional responsibility standards) that individual jurisdictions can adopt or modify to their particular needs. These national standards would then require inter- or intra-state variation to be principled ("we differ from the national standards because of local needs X and Y") rather than an accident of local practice ("we do it this way because we have the authority to do so"). Such standards would also provide election officials with a response to charges of partisanship and, in the worst cases, a principled reason to resist entreaties by fellow partisans to "game the system" to one side's advantage ("I'd love to help you, but if we do that we'll get pilloried for deviating from national standards without justification").

ASSIGNMENT: Assume that you have been employed by a new Commission on National Election Standards dedicated to drafting these national standards. Please draft a memorandum to me as Chair of the Commission suggesting one such standard for inclusion in the Commission’s final report.

Deadline: ____ ( ____ for May graduates).