On January 1, 2007, Yale Law School professor Heather Gerken published a widely read article in the LegalTimes entitled, “How Does Your State Rank on The Democracy Index.” Gerken argued that just as the Environmental Performance Index (“EPI”) shamed countries such as Belgium to upgrade their environmental practices, a “Democracy Index” would embarrass state and localities into reforming their electoral administration through competition.
Since Bush vs. Gore in 2000, the debate about electoral reform has been dominated by anecdotes and overheated abstractions. Liberals like me have long suspected that states such as Ohio and Florida were deliberately disenfranchising minority voters sympathetic to Democratic candidates. Conservatives complained that voter fraud and urban political machines were allowing ineligible voters to cast ballots at the expense of Republican candidates. With her article, Gerken contended that a Democracy Index would replace a debate dominated by shouting with data driven arguments instead:
“This index should take what Ohio State University law professor Daniel Tokaji calls a ‘moneyball approach.’ The word ‘moneyball,’ of course, refers to Michael Lewis’ book of the same name about the success of the Oakland A’s after management substituted hard numbers and empirical research for the gut-level judgments of baseball scouts in making hiring decisions.
Similarly, the Democracy Index could change the terms of the debate by giving voters something new: moneyball politics. It would offer cold, hard numbers and comparative data in place of atmospherics and anecdotes. It would provide bottom-line results in place of subjective judgments. It would let reformers talk like corporate executives, not starry-eyed idealists. And, most important, it would enable the voters to hold election officials accountable for their missteps.
In the end, a ranking system would work for a simple reason: No one wants to be at the bottom of the list.”
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