Changes to the American electoral system: politics as usual?

John Hart, Tim Lynch, Yee-Fui Ng

Electoral Regulation Research Network VIC seminar

Tuesday 30 November

Changes to the American electoral system: politics as usual?


Changes to the American electoral system: politics as usual?


John Hart

Professor Tim Lynch,  Faculty of Arts at the University of Melbourne.

Associate Professor Yee-Fui Ng, Monash University

About the talk

After the high drama of the 2020 US presidential election and its aftermath, there has been a plethora of legislation aiming to change important aspects of the American electoral system. In several States there has been legislation whose avowed purpose is to ensure electoral integrity, while in the US Congress the Democrats have sponsored legislation aiming to maximise participation.

In Australia we are accustomed to elections and electoral boundary reviews being conducted by apolitical independent commissions. It can be hard to appreciate how every aspect of the American electoral system is partisan and hotly contested. In this seminar, Professor Tim Lynch discussed how elections are and always have been politicised, and how the United States is an ideological project where elections necessarily frame and advance ideologies. Dr. John Hart critically discussed President Biden’s address at the National Constitutional Center in July on Protecting the Right to Vote and tie together recent developments in electoral law in Florida, Georgia and Arizona and the Democratic Party’s attempt to pass HR.1 (The For the People Act) in the U.S. Congress.


John Hart was born in London, England. He gained a B.A. Honours degree in Political Science (1969) and a Ph.D. (1977) from the University of Kent in England. He held teaching posts at the University of Keele (1972-73) and the University of Wales (1973-1978) before moving to Australia in 1978 to take up a lectureship at the Australian National University in Canberra in the Department of Political Science. He retired as Reader in Political Science in January 2013 and Head of Department on two occasions. Dr. Hart has also been an American Council of Learned Societies Visiting Research Scholar in American Government (1972), a Visiting Fellow at the Roosevelt Center for American Policy Studies (1982), Visiting Professor of Government at Georgetown University (1984), and a Visiting Research Fellow at the American University (1993). Dr. Hart taught courses on American government and politics and has a particular research interest in the American presidency and presidential elections. He is the author of The Presidential Branch: From Washington to Clinton, (Chatham House, 1995), co-author of Roosevelt to Reagan: The Development of the Modern Presidency (Harper & Row, 1988), and numerous articles on the American presidency in international journals. He was also a contributor to The Encyclopedia of the American Presidency (4 vols) (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994). Since his retirement, Dr. Hart has continued to be professionally active. He is completing a book entitled The Greening of the White House and his most recent publication, “The National Environmental Policy Act and the Battle for Control of Environmental Policy” appeared in The Journal of Policy History in 2019.

Tim Lynch is Professor in American Politics and Associate Dean (International) in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Melbourne. His latest book, In the Shadow of the Cold War: American Foreign Policy from George Bush Sr. to Donald Trump (Cambridge, 2020), has been called ‘a cogent, graceful, provocative account’ of its subject. His other books include Turf War: the Clinton Administration and Northern Ireland (Ashgate, 2004) and US Foreign Policy and Democracy Promotion (Routledge, 2013). His co-authored book, After Bush: the Case for Continuity in American Foreign Policy (Cambridge, 2008), won the Richard Neustadt Book Prize and became a best-selling international security text. He is editor of the two-volume Oxford Encyclopedia of American Military and Diplomatic History (2013). A Fulbright scholar, he holds a PhD in political science from Boston College, USA. He is a citizen of Australia and Great Britain.