Four disputes over the electoral system have garnered extensive attention in recent years. The four sources of controversy are the electoral college, state and local election administration, the decennial census count and legislative redistricting procedures, and U.S. House districts drawn according to the racial characteristics of state populations. None of these issues are likely to rank anywhere near the top of a list of “most important issues” identified by the American public. They are complex matters that seldom get sustained media attention. Political elites, though, have lavished considerable attention on each of these issues, for several reasons. First, they often reflect partisan divisions. Republicans and Democrats differ on most of these issues, with each party making principled arguments that coincide with its partisan interests. In addition, important interest groups—such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Common Cause, and the AFL-CIO—have pushed their own positions regarding these controversies. A small but significant group of political activists in the American population has devoted time, oratory, and resources to the issues as well. Along with campaign finance (addressed in chapter 6), the four matters listed above comprise the top electoral reform topics of recent years.
All four matters affect important goals of the electoral system in noteworthy ways. The debate over whether to reform or replace the electoral college involves defining how the electoral system should allow the public to hold a president accountable for actions in office. Revising the administration of elections affects their operation as a means of accountability and may strongly influence electoral turnout. Census counting and redistricting