A new idea develops into innovative public policy

In April 2009, Heather Gerken (Yale Law School) released The Democracy Index (Princeton University Press), in which she proposes a straightforward, innovative solution to improving the U.S. elections system: an index that would rate and compare the performance of elections systems at the state and local levels. The book has its genesis in a paper Professor Gerken developed at a Tobin Project working group meeting with Congressional lawmakers in 2006. In 2007, less than a year after being proposed by Professor Gerken, the creation of a Democracy Index was included in legislation introduced by then-Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and then endorsed by the General Counsel of both the Obama and McCain presidential campaigns. Then, in 2009, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that New York City would create the nation’s first Democracy Index, and Congressman Steve Israel put the bill into legislation in 2010. ;xNLx;;xNLx;“The Tobin Project played a crucial role in helping get the idea for the Democracy Index out. I'm not sure if I would have written up the paper were it not for the conference we had on the Hill. The conference forced me to think in more pragmatic terms than I usually do, and once I started thinking harder about the issue the idea just took off.”;xNLx;- Heather Gerken (Yale Law School) ;xNLx;;xNLx; ;xNLx;

2006-06-01 12:13:29

June 2006

Professor Gerken presents a paper at a Tobin Project democracy working group meeting in D.C. with members of Congress and legislative staff.

2007-01-01 12:13:29

January 2007

Professor Gerken revises her paper from the Tobin Project meeting and publishes her proposal in the Legal Times.

2007-03-01 12:13:29

March 2007

Policymakers express interest in drafting legislation inspired by Gerken’s ideas. Barack Obama introduces the Voter Advocate and Democracy Index Act.

2007-04-01 12:13:29

April 2007

Professor Gerken leads a discussion on election reform hosted by AEI-Brookings and the Pew Center on the States.

2009-04-01 12:13:29

April 2009

The Democracy Index is published as a book by Princeton University Press.

2009-05-01 12:13:29

May 2009

Campaign lawyers for President Obama and Senator McCain publish an op-ed in Roll Call endorsing the Democracy Index.

2009-09-01 12:13:29

September 2009

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announces that NYC will create the nation’s first Democracy Index.

2009-11-01 12:13:29

November 2009

Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) introduces legislation to create an American Democracy Index that is built on the research of Professor Gerken.

2010-01-01 12:13:29


The Pew Charitable Trusts begins to explore methods for creating a nationwide Democracy Index.

2013-02-05 00:00:00


The Pew Charitable Trusts releases the Elections Performance Index report, which grew out of Professor Gerken's Democracy Index.

A new idea develops into innovative public policy

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