Rethinking Election Law: Unskewing the System.

AuthorAlmeida, Richard A.
PositionBook review

Mulroy, Steven. Rethinking Election Law: Unskewing the System. Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2018. vii + 187 pages. Hardback, $115.00.

Steven Mulroy begins Rethinking Election Law with what he describes as three "surprising facts." Each of these facts is a variation on the theme that in recent years, Democratic political candidates consistently win substantially more votes than Republican candidates, and yet the latter party appears more consistently able to win and hold a majority of Federal offices. This empirical phenomenon, Mulroy tells us, contravenes democratic norms and seems incompatible with the idea of "government by the people." What follows is an efficient and lucid examination of core features of the American electoral system that will not surprise many political scientists or economists but will provide a firm grounding for others to consider seriously some of the eccentricities of the US Constitution. More broadly, Mulroy's book is an effective case study on the topic of how political institutions affect political outcomes. Written in a style accessible to undergraduates and even advanced high school students, Rethinking Election Law is an outstanding standalone work on a topic important to academics, students, and citizens in general.

Rethinking Election Law's ten chapters are divided approximately equally between two main goals--diagnosis of the problems Mulroy perceives and proposed solutions to those problems. His diagnosis primarily targets three elements of the US system that frustrate advocates of a more majoritarian system: the Electoral College, malapportionment of seats in the Senate, and the ubiquity of partisan gerrymandering in the House. His arguments are, for the most part, unassailable. The first two elements are antimajoritarian by design, and gerrymandering certainly can and is used to weaken the power of majorities. Mulroy's coverage of these phenomena track that which can be found in standard US government textbooks, providing reasonable overviews for any reader unfamiliar with them.

The proposed solutions are one of two things that make the book a worthy read for a generally-interested audience. Mulroy advocates two main remedies, the adoption of non-partisan redistricting committees and the replacement of the US single-member district plurality (SMDP) electoral system with instant runoff voting (IRV) and a more proportional system of allocating House seats based on a party's share of the vote...

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