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Proposed Legislation

In an article published in Legal Times in January 2007, Yale Law School Professor Heather Gerken proposed the idea of a "Democracy Index." The proposal calls for a pragmatic, data-driven approach to election reform.

Just as U.S. News and World Report ranks the performance of colleges and graduate schools, Professor Gerken's "Democracy Index" proposes that states be ranked based on how well they run their election systems. "The Democracy Index would focus on the everyday issues that matter to all voters: How long did you spend in line? How many ballots got discarded? How often did voting machines break down? It should work for the same reason that college rankings have such a dramatic effect on university decision making: no one wants to be at the bottom of the list," Professor Gerken explained.

On March 1, Senator Barack Obama announced a bill inspired by Professor Gerken's proposal.

"We are all familiar with the problems of long lines, lost ballots, and voters improperly turned away from polls during recent elections," Senator Obama said in a press release. "To prevent these problems, we need nonpartisan, objective information about how well election processes around the country are working."

A bill introduced by Senator Hillary Clinton on March 7 includes a section calling for a study of the feasibility of creating a Democracy Index of State election administration processes.

Read the "Voter Advocate and Democracy Index Act of 2007" introduced by Senator Barack Obama

Read the "Count Every Vote Act of 2007" introduced by Senator Hillary Clinton (See Section 902)

Heather Gerken
About the Author
Heather Gerken is the J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law at Yale Law School where she specializes in election law, constitutional law, and civil procedure. Professor Gerken is one of the country's leading experts on voting rights and election law. Click here to view a copy of Professor Gerken's C.V.