Civil Society Brunch: "What Are Elections for and How Can We Make Them Better?"

Emilee Chapman (Stanford University)

Emilee Chapman (Stanford University), author of Election Day: How We Vote and What It Means for Democracy (Princeton University Press, 2022), will present a talk entitled "What are Elections for and How Can we Make Them Better?" at 10am, with brunch served from 9:30am.  This public event that is part of the Civil Society Initiative.  RSVP below if you are planning to attend.  All are welcome! 


Abstract: This talk invites us to think broadly about how elections contribute to the realization of democratic values.  Much debate over election reform centers on questions about how we can gather the most accurate and equally representative information about citizens' preferences and how we can ensure that this information determines who gets to govern. But elections are not merely information-gathering exercises. We would have good reasons to continue our practice of voting even if we had better ways of ensuring that government reflects what the people want. This is because elections - and other occasions for popular voting - profoundly influence how citizens experience and relate to the otherwise very abstract notion of democracy. When elections are characterized by inclusiveness, equality, and a certain momentousness, they dramatize the nature of democracy as something that simultaneously depends on all of us and each of us. They also provide regular opportunities for citizens to perform their equal political agency. Understanding how these experiences and the political culture built around them contribute to a functional democratic system sheds new light on contemporary debates over electoral reform.