Recent Writings

Carpenter D. Authoritarian Electoral College Underpopulation: Historical Reflections and a Possible Countermove under Article I, Section 5. Working Paper.Abstract

The possibility of a contested presidential election in November 2020 to January 2021 is real, and one of the most common scenarios (discussed in a widely shared Newsweek article and by the legal scholar Lawrence Lessig) involves states refusing to certify or report slates of electors to the Electoral College with the result (and, in all likelihood, the intent) of throwing the election to the House of Representatives. I call this scenario authoritarian Electoral College underpopulation.

In this memorandum, I advance two points. First, neither Article II nor the Twelfth Amendment was designed for such scenarios, being rather intended for situations where multi-candidate or multiparty dynamics lead to no single candidate gaining a majority in the College (as occurred in 1800 and in 1824). Absent a multi-candidate scenario where no third candidate materializes, or absent an Electoral College tie, no contingent vote of the House should occur, because states should faithfully report their Electoral College slates in keeping with republican principles, that is, state popular majorities.

Second, I then argue that the House of Representatives could respond by reconfiguring its members using its powers under Article I, Section 5, with a combination of selective delegation seating or selective delegation reconstitution, to produce in the House contingent vote the result that would have been produced by a legitimate (republican) Electoral College vote and/or the national popular vote.

While Article I, Section 5 powers are subject to abuse, they could be used under extreme circumstances to rectify unrepublican actions among state authorities. Indeed, some such Section 5 powers have been used before in a similar corrective manner, to counter unrepublican actions at the state level. While reform of our Electoral College institutions is a more desirable “first-best” aspiration, this argument points to ways of protecting the republican principle in near-term presidential elections.

Blackhawk M, Carpenter D, Resch T, Schneer B. The Contours of American Congressional Petitioning, 1789-1949: A New Database . Working Paper.Abstract
We introduce the Congressional Petitions Database (CPD), an original endeavor tracking virtually
every petition introduced to Congress from 1789 to 1949. Exploiting Congress’s ritual reading of
petition prayers, we leverage a supervised machine learning algorithm to create a database comprising
over 537,000 petitions. For each petition we code the prayer and its subject matter, geographic origin,
initial disposition and other information. Initial analyses suggest that (1) per-capita petitioning peaked
nationwide in the mid- and late-nineteenth century and remained at higher levels until World War I,
declining appreciably thereafter; (2) the South exhibits lower petitioning from 1802 to 1870 (but not
before 1800), cratering in the 1840s through 1860s and again later in the Jim Crow Era; and (3) the
unenfranchised petitioned regularly and their petitions were afforded process similar to all others. The
CPD will be useful for studies of legislative development, social movements, interest group advocacy, federalism and sectionalism.
Carpenter D. La réputation organisationnelle de l’État fédéral dans un contexte général de malaise politique. Revue française d’administration publique [Internet]. 2019;170 (2) :385-396. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Après un demi-siècle de critique presque continuelle, les organes qui composent l’État fédéral aux États-Unis souffrent aujourd’hui d’un profond malaise en termes de réputation. La loyauté des citoyens, les marques de respect social, l’attractivité en ce qui concerne le recrutement de jeunes fonctionnaires, tous ces éléments positifs de la relation des Américains à l’État fédéral semblent disparaitre. En même temps, on constate que certaines agences fédérales jouissent d’une meilleure réputation que d’autres. Pendant un moment, au cours de la crise financière et économique de 2007-2008, certaines d’entre elles ont même bénéficié d’un regain de popularité. Quelles leçons pouvons-nous tirer de cette évolution ? En ce qui concerne la période actuelle, faut-il s’attendre à une renaissance des attentes du citoyen à leur égard, ou même une réaction du deep state face aux critiques des tenants de M. Bannon et du Président Trump ? Ou bien la société américaine est-elle condamnée à la constante détérioration de l’image des organisations qui composent l’État fédéral ? Le présent article montre que la défiance des citoyens américains à l’encontre de l’État est profondément ancrée dans une société marquée par les clivages partisans et une longue tradition de dénigrement.
Carpenter D, Brossard D. L’éruption patriote: The Revolt against Dalhousie and the Petitioning Explosion in Nineteenth-Century French Canada. Social Science History [Internet]. 2019;43 :453-485. Publisher's VersionAbstract

As much as any other site in the nineteenth century, Francophone Lower Canada saw immense waves of popular petitioning, with petitions against British colonial administration attracting tens of thousands of signatures in the 1820s. The petition against Governor Dalhousie of 1827–28 attracted more than 87,000 names, making it one of the largest mass petitions of the Atlantic world on a per-capita scale for its time. We draw upon new archival evidence that shows the force of local organization in the petition mobilization, and combine this with statistical analyses of a new sample of 1,864 names from the anti-Dalhousie signatory list. We conclude that the Lower Canadian petitioning surge stemmed from emergent linguistic nationalism, expectations of parliamentary democracy, and the mobilization and alliance-building efforts of Patriote leaders in the French-Canadian republican movement. As elsewhere in the nineteenth-century Atlantic, the anti-Dalhousie effort shows social movements harnessing petitions to recruit, mobilize, and build cross-cultural alliances.

More Publications

Projects & Topics


The FDA Project

A large-scale theoretical, historical and statistical analysis of pharmaceutical regulation in the U.S. as it is carried out by the FDA.