Every four years, the presidential election contest dominates the news, bringing with it not only daily policy and political scuffles, but plentiful skirmishes over the rules for conducting elections and persuading the electorate. Every 20 years, the presidential election roughly coincides with the decennial redistricting process, as political lines are drawn to restructure representation across the country. The year 2012 represents one of those comet-like convergences, where the full infrastructure of democracy is not only buffeted by winds of change but becomes suddenly, fleetingly, salient -- and new and old media alike examine every development in painstaking detail.
In such an environment, just as vulcanologists flock to the latest eruption, election law scholars tend to find the daily developments irresistible. We rationalize the engagement by understanding that we can offer context and texture and a bit of both legal and historical perspective. But when we're most honest with ourselves, perhaps it's just that we want to be where the action is, in a field to which we've devoted our professional lives. Your Loyola election law faculty aren't immune -- both Jessica Levinson and I have attempted to engage the day-to-day in a way that we hope contributes more good than harm.
But perhaps particularly in the swirl of an election season, it's also tremendously useful to be able to step back as well. Which is why I'm grateful for two opportunities this past week to think more deeply about election law scholarship that's not dependent on yesterday's headline.