When Americans go to the polls next month, some will vote by pulling a lever, while others will ink in a bubble or touch a screen. Some will breeze through in minutes, while others wait in line for hours. Voters may be asked for ID, depending where they live; they might find the polling place has run out of pens. You can think of all this variety as local flavor. You can also think of it as a crisis waiting to detonate, as it did in 2000, when the election turned in part on Florida’s strange “hanging chads.”
Election reformers tend to shudder at the patchwork inconsistency with which the United States approaches its national elections, and they regard the process as a woefully disorganized mess. Yale Law School professor Heather Gerken takes a different view. When she looks at all the ways in which Americans vote, she sees a national conversation about how best to hold an election—one that shouldn’t be squelched, but harnessed to improve voting for everyone.