The Supreme Court and Election Law: Judging Equality from Baker v. Carr to Bush v. Gore

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In the first comprehensive study of election law since the Supreme Court decided Bush v. Gore, Richard L. Hasen rethinks the Court’s role in regulating elections. Drawing on the case files of the Warren, Burger, and Rehnquist courts, Hasen roots the Court’s intervention in political process cases to the landmark 1962 case, Baker v. Carr. The case opened the courts to a variety of election law disputes, to the point that the courts now control and direct major aspects of the American electoral process.

The Supreme Court does have a crucial role to play in protecting a socially constructed “core” of political equality principles, contends Hasen, but it should leave contested questions of political equality to the political process itself. Under this standard, many of the Court’s most important election law cases from Baker to Bush have been wrongly decided.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A major contribution to the field of election law.”
-Thomas E. Mann,The Brookings Institution

“A pioneering study of the Court's increasing efforts to regulate the US political system. Hasen addresses both issues of legal doctrine and political science in his sweeping look at the Court's positions on such issues as the status of political parties, voting rights, redistricting, balloting procedures, and campaign finance reform.”
-Bruce Cain,University of California, Berkeley

“Hasen engagingly draws on internal Court deliberations, as well as political science and legal theory, to assess and criticize dramatic transformations in the role of constitutional law in overseeing the structure of democracy. The Supreme Court and Election Law will interest all those concerned with understanding the relationship between constitutional law and democracy in struggles over how contested ideals of political equality should inform the design of democratic institutions."”
-Richard H. Pildes,NYU School of Law

“Hasen masterfully distills complex legal doctrines and sophisticated political theory into a succinct analysis filled with practical wisdom. Challenging the prevailing view of Bush v. Gore as an aberration, he shows that it is simply another patch in the crazy-quilt constitutional law of elections. Anyone who cares about American democracy should read this original, important, and thought-provoking book.”
-Robert J. Pushaw,Pepperdine University School of Law

“Hasen provides a citizen's guide to the Court's decisions and offers an innovative proposal, contrary to many lawyers’ predispositions, saying why (and when) the Court should intervene but give little guidance to the people devising the laws that regulate our elections. This is a provocative analysis that deserves thorough consideration.”
-Mark Tushnet,Georgetown University Law Center

Law and Politics Book Review
"Hasen wrote this concise but substantive volume to assess the history, at least since 1901, of the Supreme Court's intervention in the political process."
Michigan Law Review
"A must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of law and politics. . . . [Hasen’s] is an important framework against which election law scholars will react and upon which they will build for some time to come."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814736913
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2006
  • Edition description: ANN
  • Pages: 227
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard L. Hasen is Professor of Law at UC Irvine School of Law.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Mighty Platonic Guardians
1 The Supreme Court of Political Equality
2 Judicial Unmanageability and Political Equality
3 Protecting the Core of Political Equality
4 Deferring to Political Branches on Contested Equality Claims
5 Equality, Not Structure
Conclusion: Political Equality and a Minimalist Court
Appendix 1: Twentieth-Century Election Law Cases
Decided by the Supreme Court in a Written Opinion
Appendix 2: Justice Goldberg’s Proposed Dissent to a Per Curiam Summary Affirmance in Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections
About the Author

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