A few years ago, the Tobin Project asked me to pull together a group of scholars to explore the ways in which our work connected to ongoing policy debates. Academics have become increasingly distant from the world of policy, and our goal was to rebuild the ties that once existed between scholars and lawmakers. During our first meeting, I challenged the scholars to present a genuinely “modest proposal,” a small-scale intervention that would improve the way our democracy works. That's where I first presented my idea for a Democracy Index. At the time, I thought that the idea would take up a few days and a bit of ink. Instead, it caught hold, and I've spent a good chunk of the last eighteen months thinking and writing about it. Shortly after I published an editorial on the idea in the Legal Times, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton each put the idea into proposed legislation. Within the year, Congress set aside $10 million to fund model data-collection programs in five states, and several foundations—including the Pew Center on the States—funded conferences and initial research on the idea. All of this activity prompted me to write this book, which makes the case for creating the Index and offers my own take on how it should be designed.
I am deeply indebted to Michael Caudell-Feagan, Doug Chapin, Ned Foley, John Fortier, and Paul Gronke, along with their staff at the Pew Center on the States, electionline, the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State, AEI/Brookings, and Reed College's Early Voting Information Center. They all worked tirelessly to shape the proposal and move it toward reality, offering advice, financial support, and organizational muscle to push the idea forward. I wouldn't have made it past the editorial stage without them. I owe great thanks to the people who patiently read the entire draft: Bruce Ackerman, Doug Chapin, Ned Foley, Barry Gerken, Thad Hall, Michael Kang, Justin Levitt, Ben Sachs, David Schleicher, Dan Tokaji, three anonymous reviewers, and my editor at Princeton, Chuck Myers, and copy editor Richard Isomaki. Over the course of the last eighteen months, I have