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This subject studies the regulation of a central mechanism for accountability and distributing power – elections. It adopts an interdisciplinary approach to the law of elections by drawing upon the disciplines of law, political philosophy and political science 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 facing electoral law will be informed by international standards and relevant examples from other countries, which may include Canada, India, Indonesia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Topics covered in this subject may include:
- Why do elections matter? Democratic theories of elections and their critiques;
- Which public officials should be elected? The case of judges;
- Constitutions and elections;
- 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 fair 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’?; and
- A case study in the limits of election law: Lobbying and its regulation.
Intended learning outcomes
Students who successfully complete this subject will have developed and demonstrated:
- A sophisticated understanding of the law of elections in Australia;
- The ability to discern the strengths and limitations of such law;
- The ability to participate as part of a community of learners through sustained discussion of the law of elections in a classroom environment, and peer review of essay plans.
- The ability to express complex ideas and expound reasoned arguments; and
- Specialised skills in self-directed legal research and the capacity to develop, sustain and reference argument in a thorough and persuasive way.
Students who successfully complete this subject will have developed and demonstrated the following skills:
- The specialized ability to read and analyse a range of sources, including relevant legislation and cases and interdisciplinary materials;
- The capacity to engage in critical thinking, independent thought and reflection at an abstract level;
- The capacity to communicate knowledge and understanding of complex ideas in oral and written forms;
- The ability to write effectively in descriptive, analytical, critical and reflective modes; and
- The ability to undertake research involving diverse sources and prepare a piece of academic writing displaying sophisticated analysis, synthesis and theoretical understanding.
Last updated: 11 February 2021