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Book on Supreme Court and Electoral
Process in Second Edition

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 Florida recount?"

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 state law.

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- ranging.

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 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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