Purpose & Principle

This journal, launched at the beginning of 2024, aims mostly to address issues concerning the structures and procedures of democracy.

The challenge of any democracy is how to combine the disparate preferences of citizens into a decision on behalf of all. This challenge becomes even harder when the preferences of citizens become increasingly divergent, or “polarized” in the parlance of political scientists and the journalists who cover politics. The institutions that worked well enough when citizens were less divided may no longer be adequate under current conditions.

Common Ground Democracy will explore options that might enable a self-governing republic to make choices that better reflect the totality of the citizenry’s collective preferences. As its name implies, its guiding principle will be to achieve outcomes that minimize the degree of disfavor with the decisions reached. Or, to put the point more positively, the goal is to achieve the greatest degree of assent possible—the maximum common ground.

In addition to focusing on the overall design of democratic government, this journal will address the operation of democracy in practice. 2024, as is well known, is expected to be an especially difficult election year in the United States. There will be a need to monitor and analyze events as they develop. While the journal’s main attention will be the condition of democracy in America, from time to time references may be made to comparable circumstances elsewhere. After all, a doctor seeking to diagnose and cure an ailing patient will draw upon whatever sources of knowledge might be most illuminating.

About the Author

I teach election law and constitutional law at the Ohio State University, where I also direct its election law program. For the first three months of 2024, I will be at the University of Arizona as part of a sabbatical year devoted to researching and writing a book related to the topic of this newsletter. My previous books include Ballot Battles: The History of Disputed Elections in the United States (2016, with a new edition in 2024) and Presidential Elections and Majority Rule: The Rise, Decline, and Potential Restoration of the Jeffersonian Electoral College (2020).

Please subscribe to join me on this exploration of how best to repair—and, as necessary, even rebuild—the methods by which free and equal citizens can shape their shared destiny:

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Improving elections to maximize consent of the governed


election law professor