C. Mara Suttmann-Lea

C. Mara Suttmann-Lea

Associate Professor of Government

Joined Connecticut College: 2018

B.A., DePaul University
M.A., Northwestern University
Ph.D., Northwestern University


American politics

Election administration

Voting reforms

Political campaigns

Political participation

Mara Suttmann-Lea hails from the Midwest, growing up in Leland, Michigan, and earning her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Chicago, Illinois. She studies American politics, and is primarily interested in the relationship between election laws, political parties and campaigns, and political participation. Her research aims to develop concrete ways to improve the electoral process and increase access to participation in politics, particularly for vulnerable populations.

Her current research has two tracks. One is a book manuscript that examines how campaigns and party organizations have adapted to expansive voting reforms like early voting and same-day voter registration. She argues that we cannot fully comprehend the consequences of expansive voting reforms for citizen participation without examining how they shape (and are shaped by) political actors – campaigns, party organizations, elected officials, and election administrators–who have a vested interest in the voter behavior that altered by these reforms. By examining this relationship, she looks to establish the role that these political actors play in enhancing or diminishing the effects of reforms meant to improve political participation.

The other track evaluates poll workers in the United States. These street level bureaucrats serve as a primary point of contact between citizens and voter laws governing voter eligibility, and are a central part of the democratic process. There are multiple questions this track of research addresses. One, she wants to know what motivates poll workers to serve in the first place. Two, she seeks to establish the extent to which poll workers are descriptively representative of the populations they serve. Three, she considers whether descriptive representation is necessary for substantive representation at the street level of election administration, that is, whether poll workers equally assess voter eligibility of individuals who do and don’t look like them. Finally, she evaluates how the race of voters combined with state-level voter identification laws shape poll workers’ evaluation of voter eligibility.

Suttmann-Lea has taught such courses as Introduction to American Politics, Campaigns and Elections, The American Presidency and Congress and the Legislative Process.

Courses she will teach at Connecticut College

Introduction to American Politics
The Politics of Voting Reforms
Presidential Nominations
Campaigns, Elections, and Political Parties
Urban Politics
American Political Development

Recent publications

“Early voting in the 2017 Montana special congressional election.” 2017. The London School of Economics United States Politics and Policy Blog.

“Prospects for Success in the Trump Presidency.” 2017. The London School of Economics United States Politics and Policy Blog.

“The 1980s Republican roots of Hillary Clinton’s early voting strategy.” 2016. The London School of Economics United States Politics and Policy Blog.

Recent conferences and presentations

“Are You a Russian Agent? Working with U.S. Election Administrators in an Era of Electoral Mistrust.” Presented at the 2018 annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association.

“Toward More Equal Participation? Early Voting, Mobilization, and Turnout Biases." Presented at the Law in Motion Conference 2017, Department of Legal Studies, Northwestern University.

“Convenience at a Cost: The Unintended Consequences of Early Voting.” 2016. Presented at the Comparative Historical Social Sciences Workshop at Northwestern University.

Contact C. Mara Suttmann-Lea

Mailing Address

C. Mara Suttmann-Lea
Connecticut College
270 Mohegan Ave.
New London, CT 06320


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