Professor Melanie Springer

July 01, 2013

Melanie J. Springer joined the Politics Department in July 2013. She is originally from Southern California and studied political science and history as an undergraduate at UCSD. After graduating in 2000, she moved to New York City to pursue her doctorate. She received her Ph.D. in political science at Columbia University in 2006, and taught for several years at Washington University in Saint Louis before coming to Santa Cruz.

Melanie’s academic interests center on American political development. To date, her research has focused on understanding the historical evolution of voting and elections, exploring the role of federalism in shaping past and recent policy-making in the American states, identifying the varying ways electoral and political institutions have influenced opportunities for political participation, and continuing a long-standing fascination with Southern politics.

Her most recent book, How the States Shaped the Nation: American Electoral Institutions and Voter Turnout, 1920-2000, is forthcoming with the University of Chicago Press (Chicago Studies in American Politics, 2013). This work examines the effect that numerous state-level electoral institutions have had on 20th century voter turnout rates in the American states. It highlights efforts to limit the vote alongside reforms geared toward fostering inclusiveness. At its core this book examines the fluidity of participation — a concept central to the definition of American democracy — while seriously considering the importance of space and time.

Melanie was also a co-editor of, and a contributor in, Reforming the Presidential Nomination Process (Brookings Institution Press, 2009). This volume explores the complicated rules governing the methods used by the political parties to select a presidential nominee, and the effect that these rules have on presidential outcomes. The authors outline the strengths and the weaknesses of the current system and offer suggestions for reform. Melanie’s other research endeavors have been published in Political Research Quarterly, State Politics and Policy Quarterly, and Public Opinion Quarterly.

In addition to giving several guest lectures both locally and in Washington, DC, Melanie contributes regularly to campus life and to the political science community. She is also an accomplished instructor. At Wash U, she regularly taught undergraduate seminars on voting and elections and state politics and policymaking, and a graduate course on electoral politics and voting behavior.

Beyond work and family, Melanie is an accomplished quilter and an avid cook. She is also an enthusiastic traveler with a special fondness for Italy and the West coast of the United States. She is thrilled to make Santa Cruz her new home.

Melanie Springer can be reached by email at