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Book Examines Supreme Court's Role
In Shaping Political Process

Posted October 23, 2000

HOLLAND -- A new book edited by Dr. David Ryden of the Hope College political science faculty examines the Supreme Court's "underappreciated significance" in shaping the political process in the United States.

"The U.S. Supreme Court and the Electoral Process" has been published by Georgetown University Press of Baltimore, Md. The book considers the court's influence in four general areas: electoral representation, political parties, political reform and election law.

"The Court is extremely influential in molding the nitty-gritty of real-world politics," Ryden writes. "With regard to voting rights, district line drawing, funding of campaigns, ballot access, patronage, and other aspects of representation, the Court wields the ultimate check. Its decisions bear directly on how well the system--and the government it produces--rises to the challenge of representing the panoply of voices and interests that constitute our society."

As one example of the Court's influence, he cited the current condition of campaign finance--marked by large "soft money" donations by businesses, unions and the wealthy--as the result of several Supreme Court decisions. As another, he cited this season's Michigan Republican presidential primary between George W. Bush and John McCain, in which the ability to participate by voters who were not registered as Republicans shaped the state party's selection of its candidate.

According to Ryden, while individual Court actions receive a great deal of attention, the Court's overall impact has not been examined in a comprehensive way. "The U.S. Supreme Court and the Electoral Process" is intended to prompt such thinking.

A total of 11 scholars of law or political science have contributed chapters to the book. Ryden wrote three of the 13 chapters, in addition to editing the volume.

Ryden is an associate professor of political science and a Towsley Research Scholar at Hope, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1994. He is also author of the 1996 book "Representation in Crisis: The Constitution, Interest Groups, and Political Parties," which criticizes the Supreme Court's role in weakening political parties in favor of group-oriented representation.

He completed his doctorate at The Catholic University of America. He also holds a law degree from the University of Minnesota, and practiced law full-time prior to pursuing graduate work in American politics.

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