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Ballot Battles: The History of Disputed Elections in the United States

Ballot Battles: The History of Disputed Elections in the United States

In Ballot Battles, Edward Foley presents a sweeping history of election controversies in the United States, tracing how their evolution generated legal precedents that ultimately transformed how we determine who wins and who loses. While weaving a narrative spanning over two centuries, Foley repeatedly returns to an originating event: because the Founding Fathers despised parties and never envisioned the emergence of a party system, they wrote a constitution that did not provide clear solutions for high-stakes and highly-contested elections in which two parties could pool resources against one another. Moreover, in the American political system that actually developed, politicians are beholden to the parties which they represent - and elected officials have typically had an outsized say in determining the outcomes of extremely close elections that involve recounts. This underlying structural problem, more than anything else, explains why intense ballot battles that leave one side feeling aggrieved will continue to occur for the foreseeable future. 

Edward Foley directs Election Law @ Moritz at Ohio State’s law school, where he also holds the Ebersold Chair in Constitutional Law. He is currently a visiting scholar at Stanford University's Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law.

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