Book on Supreme Court and Electoral
Process in Second
Posted October 7, 2002
HOLLAND -- When the first edition of his book "The
U.S. Supreme Court and the Electoral Process" was published
in the early fall of 2000, Dr. David Ryden of the Hope
College faculty never imagined that the second edition would
include as dramatic a new example as "Bush v. Gore."
"I certainly never anticipated such a dramatic and
direct illustration of the Court's formative role in
electoral politics. I doubt that anyone did," he said. "In
part, it was simply the result of a 'once in a lifetime'
election. Are any of us likely to live through anything
like the amazing circumstances that culminated in the
Eerily, Ryden noted, the current Senate race in
New Jersey does offer some parallels to the 2000
presidential race, with the Court called by New Jersey
Republicans to review the New Jersey Supreme Court's
decision to allow New Jersey Democrats to enter a new
candidate on the November ballot after the deadline set by
The first edition of Ryden's book was published by
Georgetown University Press only a few weeks before the
photo-finish presidential election that saw the Court play a
pivotal role in the outcome: a 5-4 decision against
recounting in the closely-contested Florida race. As an
expert on the Court's role in the political process, he
observed the unfolding events with interest--and was
frequently asked to provide expert commentary in media
accounts of the situation.
For Ryden, even as active awareness of "hanging
chads" and "dimples" fades two years later, the fact that
the Court could and did play a role is a lesson to remember.
"The Court sees itself as the guardian of the
democratic process, and it will assert its power and its
will when necessary," he said. "The Court arguably is
dismissive of the duly elected representatives, and the
people by extension, and is often unwilling to trust the
resolution of electoral disputes or crises to the normal
democratic channels. And the Court's efforts have real
ramifications for the operation of practical politics."
Ryden notes that the Court influences the
political process in many important ways. Through decisions
on voting rights, district line drawing, campaign finance,
ballot access, patronage and other aspects of
representation, he said, the Court's influence is far-
A total of 12 scholars of law or political science
contributed chapters to the book. Ryden wrote four
chapters, in addition to editing the volume.
Ryden is an associate professor of political
science 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
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.