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Elections, Politics and Public Policy Making


Units: 3


This course is a micro mini and will meet April 10 & 17, 2021.

American elections: fair or fraudulent?  Campaigning: information or misinformation?  Voter participation: open or suppressed?  Election outcomes: trusted or suspect?  These questions have become front and center in the atmosphere following every hard fought national election.  However, the 2020 election has catapulted the debate from a comfortable atmosphere into a discomforting stratosphere.   Is our system broken?  If so, can it be fixed?  This micro will take a close look at these questions.

Our U.S. constitution and federal law set some ground rules establishing the Electoral College and certain voter rights.  However, 50 state laws establish how elections will be managed, how voters are registered, how they get to vote, how the votes will be counted and how the state’s electors to the Electoral College will be selected and vote.  The state of Pennsylvania was a focus of national attention before Election Day and an even greater focus after Election Day.  For that reason, we will use Pennsylvania as a case in point.  In the aftermath of the election, a range of proposals for changing Pennsylvania’s election laws is surfacing.  Front and center issues address the Electoral College, mail in voting, voter registration, voter identification, voting technology, voting security, hacking, and voter misinformation.

Experts and public officials will provide varying viewpoints, arguments and evidence to students.  Select readings and data will provide further depth.  Students will be assigned teams to analyze and debate proposals among themselves.  Their conclusions will be presented to Pennsylvania officials engaged in the legislative process.

Learning Outcomes

Elected officials determine public policy, including those policies that determine who becomes President.  This micro will immerse public policy students in the process that determines who the elected officials will be and the role they play in Presidential elections. Students should develop:

  • An understanding of the governance, regulation, conduct and management of elections.
  • The ability to develop politically viable proposals for policy change by gathering expert and opinion and processing limited evidence.
  • The ability to address and present a solution to a controversial issue within a short time frame.

Prerequisites Description

None is required.  Students who have a potential interest in running for public office and/or serving on the staff of an elected official will find it of special interest.  Students interested in politics in general and/or the state of Pennsylvania in particular will also find this course of special interest.