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This subject studies the central mechanism for democratic accountability – elections. It adopts an interdisciplinary approach to underscore how this area of law is shaped by normative principles, the political process and practical considerations. The subject will be situated in the context where the dynamic interaction of diverse and powerful actors shapes the design and practice of such law.
The subject also aims to develop amongst students the critical ability to assess the strengths and limitations of the Australian version of electoral democracy. Integral to its aim is the comparative perspective of the subject where the examination of key questions will be informed by international standards and relevant examples from other countries, which may include Canada, India, Indonesia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Principal topics include:
- Why do elections matter? Democratic theories of elections and their critiques
- Which public officials should be elected? The case of judges
- Constitutions, elections and democracy
- What happens during elections? The election campaign, the institutional actors (political parties, third party campaigners, the media, electoral commissions and the courts)
- The voting process (compulsory voting, preferential voting, proportional voting)
- Electoral rights (right to vote, freedom of political association, freedom of political expression)
- The drawing of electoral boundaries
- Regulation of political parties
- Money in electoral politics
- Electoral law-making: the challenge of making democratic electoral laws in a party system
- The role of courts and electoral commissions in electoral law
- International standards in elections: is there a ‘best practice’?
- A case study in the limits of election law: lobbying and its regulation.
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject will have developed and demonstrated:
- A sophisticated understanding of the law of democracy in Australia including key questions of institutional design, principle and practice
- The ability to discern the strengths and limitations of such law from the perspective of democratic theories and principles
- A comprehensive knowledge of comparative examples relevant to appreciating the contemporary challenges facing electoral democracies
- A knowledge of international standards relevant to understanding these challenges.
Last updated: 2 December 2019