Analysis and Commentary on Election Law
Gerrymandering, Power Politics, and the Illusion of Democracy

George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan considers gerrymandering, particularly whether there are legal or constitutional limits on how far one party can go to marginalize and potentially destroy the other party. Buchanan explains how gerrymandering works and why it is such a troubling phenomenon in a democracy.

Is the Winner-Take-All Method States Use to Select Presidential Electors Legally Vulnerable?

In this second of a two-part series of columns, Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar evaluates the major constitutional and statutory voting rights claims asserted in the federal challenge to Texas’s use of the so-called Winner-Take-All approach to selecting the state’s representatives to the Electoral College. Amar explains why he finds both types of arguments set forth in the complaint largely unpersuasive.

2020 Presidential Election Legal Maneuvering: Prominent Lawyers and Law Professors File Lawsuit Challenging Winner-Take-All Method Used by Texas (and Most Other States) to Pick Presidential Electors

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on a lawsuit recently filed in Texas challenging the winner-take-all method by which Texas (and other states) administer presidential elections. Amar explains the benefits and drawbacks of the method and why the lawsuit is unlikely to elicit changes in Texas or elsewhere.

Why the Supreme Court Was Right to Stay out of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Districting Case, and Why State Courts Have Important Roles in this Arena

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar explains why the US Supreme Court was right to leave undisturbed the recent congressional redistricting ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Amar describes the important role (and limitations) of state courts and state legislative bodies in our federal system.

Political Impediments to Carving California into Three States, and Why Tim Draper Should Support the NPV Plan for Presidential Elections

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar continues his discussion of the proposal by Silicon Valley billionaire investor Tim Draper to break up California into three separate states. Amar describes several political obstacles to Draper’s proposal and explains how implementation of the National Popular Vote plan could actually help Draper achieve his goal of dividing the state.

Oregon May Become the First State to Use Direct Democracy to Join the Presidential National Popular Vote Agreement Plan

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on a recent significant development in the election reform movement known as the National Popular Vote interstate compact plan. Amar explains the why the NPV would benefit voters in all states and why Oregon’s shift in particular is important.

Democratic Roulette: Can France’s Two-Round Presidential Election System Contain a Populist Revolt?

Guest columnist Dean Falvy, a lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law and attorney with an international business practice, comments on the upcoming presidential election in France. Falvy explains the French election process, the contenders for the presidency, and the high stakes of the election.

Can and Should States Mandate Tax Return Disclosure as a Condition for Presidential Candidates to Appear on the Ballot?

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar considers whether states have the authority to mandate tax return disclosure in order to appear on the presidential election ballot—and if they do, whether exercising that authority is a good idea. Amar explains why the legal authority for enacting such laws is unclear and argues that they could potentially undermine the democratic process, whereas a national popular vote would strengthen the process.

Why Electors Should Not Make Hillary Clinton (or Anyone Else Besides Donald Trump) President

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar argues that the presidential electors should not elect anyone besides Donald Trump when they cast their ballots on December 19. Amar points out that while there are better way to elect a president than the electoral college, it would be unwise to switch rules after the end of the election and allow independent, unaccountable electors to make decisions based on what they think America wants.

Fixing the Problem of “Faithless” Electors

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar proposes a solution to the problem of the “faithless” elector—a person who pledges to vote in a particular way but then who wants to cast his or her electoral college vote in a different direction. Amar provides specific language that states could implement as law to address these rogue individuals whose actions could alter a presidential election result.

Why Major and Minor Parties Should Support Instant Runoff Voting

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf explains why both major and minor parties would benefit from changing to an instant runoff voting system. As Dorf explains, such a system would allow people to vote for their first-choice candidate (including third parties) without the risk of incidentally aiding their last-choice candidate.

Lessons Learned from this Term’s Legislative Districting Decisions, Especially the Harris Case from Arizona

Dean and law professor at Illinois Law, Vikram David Amar describes some of the takeaway points from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions on legislative districting, particularly that in Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. Amar points out that the unexpected death of Justice Scalia in the middle of the term affects at least the reasoning—and perhaps the outcome—of this and many other cases.

What We Could Learn from Brazil (and Vice Versa) About Presidential Impeachment Procedures (and Related Matters)

Vikram David Amar, law professor and dean at Illinois Law, compares and contrasts the presidential impeachment procedures in the United States and Brazil. Amar suggests five ways in which these two large presidential democracies could benefit from more detailed study of the other’s procedures.

Should Voters’ Hands in the Vice Presidential Selection Process Be Tied?

University of Illinois dean and law professor Vikram David Amar explains how voters’ hands are tied when it comes to electing a vice president. Amar calls into question this widespread practice and considers whether we might improve the democratic process by changing it.

A Specific Proposal That Helps Give Us a Sense of What Getting Rid of Citizens United Might Entail

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar examines California’s Proposition 49—which seeks the voters’ approval for the California legislature to ratify an amendment to the federal Constitution to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC—in order to shine light on what might be required to overturn the decision on a federal level. Amar argues that Proposition 49 highlights just how difficult it would be to craft a workable constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

The Return of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) before the Supreme Court: The Harris v. AIRC Case Argued Next Week

University of Illinois College of Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar discusses a case in which the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments next week—Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. As Amar points out, that case lies at the intersection of many contentious aspects of 21st century American democracy, including dissatisfaction with elected officials, partisan zeal, racial equality, and federal–state relations.

A Minimum Wage of Zero

Chapman University law professor Ronald Rotunda questions the practice of both the Hillary Clinton Campaign and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to employ unpaid interns. Rotunda argues that in both instances, the interns do not receive the type of training or education from the experience that is required in order for an unpaid internship not to violate federal labor laws.

Meet our Columnists
Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar, holds the James J. Freeland Eminent Scholar... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is the C.S. Wong Professor of Law at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973.... more

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He... more

Samuel Estreicher
Samuel Estreicher

Samuel Estreicher is the Dwight D. Opperman Professor, Director, Center for Labor and Employment... more

Leslie C. Griffin
Leslie C. Griffin

Dr. Leslie C. Griffin is the William S. Boyd Professor of Law at the University of Nevada, Las... more

Joanna L. Grossman
Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

MARCI A. HAMILTON is the Fels Institute of Government Professor of Practice, and Fox Family... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of... more

Austin Sarat
Austin Sarat

Austin Sarat is Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty and William Nelson Cromwell... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

Lesley Wexler is a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately... more