ECPR General Conference
Université de Montréal, Montreal
26 - 29 August 2015

The Law and Politics of Voter Suppression

Political Participation
Michael Pal
University of Ottawa
Michael Pal
University of Ottawa

This paper considers legal responses to voter suppression in three established democracies: Canada, Australia, and the United States. Governments in all three democracies can credibly be accused of attempting to engage in voter suppression, particularly through the partisan manipulation of rules around election administration such as voter identification and registration. I assess the Fair Elections Act, Citizen Voting Act, and the “robocalls” scandal in Canada, the legislative changes to voter registration culminating in the decision of the Australian High Court in Rowe v Electoral Commissioner, and the U.S. debate over restrictive voter identification rules. I consider how courts have engaged with legal challenges to vote suppressing political activity and legislation. I conclude that while courts possess the legal tools to combat voter suppression, particularly through constitutional grants of the right to vote, their responses have largely been inadequate.
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"Aristocracies … may preserve themselves longest, but only democracies, which refresh their ruling class, can expand" - Hugh Trevor-Roper

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