As Americans, we are conditioned to believe that involving partisans in the administration of elections is inherently problematic. Understandably. The United States is a major outlier; virtually every other developed democracy mandates nonpartisan election administration. Whether on the left or right— especially since the 2020 election—we are barraged with headlines about actual or feared partisanship on the part of those who run our elections. What this narrative misses, however, is a crucial and underrecognized fact: by design, partisans have always played central roles at every level of U.S. election administration. What is more, partisans are baked into the U.S. election process for lofty reasons. Placing rival partisans in the election process increases transparency, enhances accountability, and (in theory) improves public trust in outcomes. Rival partisans populate election administration for the same reason we rely on the adversarial process in court: adversarialism leads to outcomes in which members of the public are more likely to abide. As with the justice system, adversarial election administration is not a perfect formula. But the better we understand the mechanisms of rival partisanship in election administration, the better our chances of improving them. This Article takes on this task, examining the history of adversarial election administration in the United States, describing how adversarial actors function in modern U.S. elections, and suggesting how states might better leverage adversarial election administration to bolster transparency, boost accountability, and secure election outcomes voters can trust.
101 North Carolina Law Review 1077-1127 (2023)
Green, Rebecca, "Adversarial Election Administration" (2023). Faculty Publications. 2130.