Stanford Law and Policy Review

Symposium on "The Political Spectrum, 2001-2002"

Invitation to Participate

On March 12, 2001, I received a letter from the Stanford Law and Policy Review inviting me to submit a manuscript dealing with electoral politics in the United States to consider for publication in symposium on "Political Spectrum, 2001-2002," which would appear a future issue. Below is my reply.

Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2001 17:27:45 -0600

From: Kenneth Janda <k
Subject: Political Spectrum 2001 Symposium

To George Sax, Ryan Spiegel, and Jeremiah Frei-Pearson,

Thanks for your letter of March 12 inviting a contribution to your forthcoming symposium on the "Political Spectrum, 2001-2002." I note that you want a completed article submitted by May 1. Under that deadline, I could only contribute something based on a topic that I'm currently researching. Indeed, I am working on a topic that relates to those that you proposed, although it does not fit any very exactly.

 I propose writing an original article that describes the special nature of American elections--the multiplicity of offices for which citizens are asked to vote in elections every two years. You can judge the thrust of the article from this caption to a feature in my new chapter on "Nominations, Campaigns, and Elections," which I just wrote for the 7th edition of The Challenge of Democracy. One of the leading texts in American government and politics (authored by Kenneth Janda, Jeffrey Berry, and Jerry Goldman and published by Houghton Mifflin), the new edition is scheduled for publication this summer.

Compared With What? 9.1: The Voter's Burden in the United States and Canada:

No other country requires its voters to make so many decisions in a general election. Compare these two facsimiles of official ballots for the general elections in November, 2000--one used in Canada and the other used in the United States. The long U.S. ballot is just a portion of the one that confronted voters in the City of Evanston, Illinois. In addition to the twenty-three different offices listed here, the full ballot also asked voters to check "yes" or "no" on the retention of 77 incumbent judges. For good measure, Evanstonians were asked to vote on one state-wide referendum and one city referendum. By contrast, the straight-forward Canadian ballot (for the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce-Lachine district in Montreal) simply asked citizens to chose among a varied set of party candidates running for the House of Commons. (Incidentally, the Liberal Party candidate won 61% of the vote.) No wonder counting the votes is so complicated in the U.S. and so simple in Canada. See Figure 9.1 for more on the vast scope of voting in America.

Elsewhere, I write:

As explained in Chapter 7, when Americans go to the polls in a general election, they are asked to decide among scores candidates running for many different public offices at the local, state, and national levels. The election is "general" in the sense that is inclusive of various levels of government. When Canadians go to the polls in a general election, they are asked only to choose among one small set of candidates running for a single seat in parliament. Their election is "general" only in the sense that all members of the House are up for election; there are no other offices or issues on the ballot. This difference leaps out when comparing the ballots (see Compared With What 9.1). This difference translates dramatically into enormous differences in total votes that are cast and that need to be counted in the two countries. The 13 million Canadians who voted in their 2000 federal election cast 13 million votes for parliamentary candidates. As shown in Figure 9.1, the 105 million Americans who went to the polls in 2000 cast over 2 billion votes. No wonder that voting results for a general election are not available as quickly in the United States. Of course, the thirty-six day delay in determining the president was due to the extremely close election in Florida, but Florida's problems in counting the votes can be attributed to the complexity of the ballot, designed to accommodate all those offices.

So I would write an article detailing the numbers of national, state, and local offices (and referenda) that confronted voters in the 2000 election. It is this complexity that sets American elections apart from elections in other countries and that provides such vexing challenges to our efforts just to count the votes. Please let me know whether you are interested in an article along these lines.

Kenneth Janda
Professor of Political Science
Northwestern University

Late last week, I received this reply:

Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2001 17:10:48 -0700 (PDT)

From: George D Sax <gsax@Stanford.EDU
To: Kenneth Janda <
Subject: Re: Political Spectrum 2001 Symposium

Prof. Janda:

Thank you for your interest. I am very familiar with The Challenge of Democracy, as I was enrolled in American Government at Northwestern three years ago. Based on the textbook and your abstract, it seems as if your comparative ballots article would fit roughly with the purposes of our symposium.

We are not making any rejection decisions until after May 1, and would be willing to review a completed 20-30 page article (in Bluebook style) at your earliest convenience. I would then submit your piece to the managing board of our journal for final review, so I cannot make a final guarantee of acceptance.

Thanks for responding to our letter. The managing board and I look forward to reviewing your piece.

We greatly appreciate your interest. Look forward to hearing back from you.


George D. Sax
Northwestern '99
Stanford Law School Class of 2003
(650) 497-3091