Professor Dan Butler (Washington University in St. Louis) and Professor Jeff Harden (University of Notre Dame) will present their paper "Can Institutional Reform Protect Election Certification?" at the State Oversight Academy Symposium 2023, hosted by the Levin Center of the Wayne State University Law School. RSVP can be found here and the paper can be downloaded here.
Abstract: After the 2020 presidential election, some state-level elected officials publicly promoted antidemocratic rhetoric and a smaller group took specific action against the results. Strengthening democracy in America requires protecting election certification from politically-motivated influence. In this essay, we assess the potential for mitigating antidemocratic actions with non- partisan certification of state election results. We contend that this practice would insulate the certification process from the demands that voters might make on politicians to engage in at- tempts to overturn elections. Using an original survey experiment administered to a nationally representative sample of Americans, we examine how nonpartisan certification impacts elected officials’ public approval. The results indicate that our proposed reform is a pathway by which elites in government can maintain support without acting against the electoral process. Thus, it is a solution that is incentive compatible because it also insulates politicians from the electoral pressure to take antidemocratic action. Finally, we show that there is broad support among all segments of the public for empowering nonpartisan commissions to certify elections.