Elections shape history, but elections have rules that must be understood and followed. A book co-edited by Robert Pekkanen of the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies brings together top scholars to study the origins and effects of electoral systems in the United States and other democracies.
“The Oxford Handbook of Electoral Systems,” published in 2018, is coming out in paperback in February from Oxford University Press. The entire book is already available online through UW Libraries.
Pekkanen, who also holds an adjunct appointment in political science, edited the volume with Erik Herron of West Virginia University and Matthew Shugart of the University of California, Davis. The book includes essays on election law and procedures by about 50 academics from universities throughout the U.S. as well as in Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Israel, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, France and Sweden.
“The topic of electoral systems is much in the news these days,” Pekkanen said. “As a scholar of electoral systems, I completely agree with the growing awareness of how important these rules are. Electoral systems structure the rules of the game, and how you play really matters for determining who wins.”
Pekkanen said the three editors planned the book as a way to tie together recent research in the burgeoning field of electoral systems. Essays address the design and adoption of election rules as well as theoretical questions and methodological approaches to guide future research.
“We also tried to shape the discussions by including a section on ‘Holding Elections,’ which we wanted scholars to pay more attention to. Here we had scholars write about the mundane business (we thought) of election administration, as well as electoral integrity. Now it looks like we were prescient!” Pekkanen said.
The book also features countries on four continents that have changed their electoral systems, in a chapter titled “Electoral Systems in the Context of Reform.”
Also coming is a book on electoral systems and parliamentary committee assignments.
Clearly, the handbook speaks to a topic in the news daily — but Pekkanen said the volume has no “ready fix” for the issues dividing the nation following the 2020 election.
“However, our conviction in the book is that we will do better by paying attention to the mechanisms that translate voter preferences into actual outcomes. The rules matter.
“We hope that this book will serve as a resource to anyone who is thinking seriously about how electoral systems influence politics, including election officials, journalists, think-tankers and students.”
For more information, contact Pekkanen at [email protected]