The Politics of Ballot Design

This Presidents' Day we take a look at the impact of ballot design on voting behavior

The Politics of Ballot Design: How States Shape American Democracy

Engstrom, Erik J. by Erik J. Engstrom and Jason M. Roberts Cambridge, 2021
151p bibl index, 9781108842808 $99.99, 9781108906593 $80.00

The Politics of Ballot Design: How States Shape American Democracy book cover

Those who analyze the determinants of voting behavior usually address variations across candidates as the primary motivators for the decisions that voters make. Engstrom (Univ. of California, Davis) and Roberts (Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) look at voting from a structural or formal perspective and ask how ballot design influences voters. This structural approach seems eminently reasonable in the aftermath of the 2020 election, given the primacy of issues concerning such things as absentee ballots, early voting, and mail-in ballots. The authors look at major changes in voting structures since the advent of the Australian ballot late in the 19th century, revealing the impact that such changes have had on election outcomes. Because the United States takes a decentralized federal approach to its election structures, the authors can show the ways in which the politicians who control those structures mold them in a self-interested way. Indeed, one of the most pronounced results has been the advent of the incumbency advantage during the past 50 years. This book makes a powerful argument to carefully consider the democratic implications of how ballots are redesigned and by whom.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates. Graduate students, faculty, and professionals.
T. Marchant-Shapiro, Southern Connecticut State University
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – Political Science – U.S. Politics
Choice Issue: Mar 2022

Enjoy this week’s review? Check out more reviews of related titles: