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News and Events:
FEC Chairman Says Perfect Election is Elusive
1

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Bradley Smith, chairman
of the Federal Election
Commission
SPEAKING TO THE STUDENTS and the election experts at the Law Review Symposium in February, the chairman of the Federal Election Commission said it is impossible to create the perfect election.

“This is a mission that, I believe, can only end in disappointment,” said Bradley Smith, keynote speaker at a forum devoted to “The Law of Democracy.”

The symposium featured discussions on campaign finance reform, legislative redistricting, partisan gerrymandering, and the California gubernatorial recall.

Visiting Penn Law at the height of the presidential primary season, Smith also said that excessive efforts to tinker with elections and impose order on democracy can be misguided. Such efforts, he suggested, can lead to undue judicial intervention that deprives voters of the final decision.

As an example, Smith said that the U.S. Supreme Court’s involvement in the 2000 presidential election raised doubts about the election and deprived the electorate of its right to decide the outcome. But he also castigated the Florida Supreme Court for overriding the state’s election laws and eviscerating the power of election officials in an attempt to perfectly “count every vote,” thus bringing about the U.S. Supreme Court’s involvement.

Regarding campaign finance reform, Smith said he questions efforts to root out all appearance of corruption and give everyone equal influence. (In a separate presentation, Penn Law Assistant Professor Nate Persily cited a poll that seems to support Smith’s contention. It reported that two-thirds of Americans believe that special interests will maintain their power despite campaign finance reform.)

“Overregulation in the field of campaign finance … seems to be empowering lawyers, campaign consultants, judges, and bureaucrats, not ordinary voters,” Smith concluded.

 
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