The plot of Democracy in America is absolutely ridiculous and full of holes. We find out midway through season 3 that Holling has been Cicely mayor for decades without any elections taking place during that time. (Incidentally, if Holling is mayor, then why does Maurice always call and chair town meetings?) Yet, Maggie and Joel are pressed into service to oversee election rules that have been in place for these nonexistent elections. The walk-on character of reclusive resident Edna Hancock has had a festering grudge for five years over a stop sign she had asked Holling for but not received. This, on a section of highway near her house, because she objects to the noise of the trucks working through the gears. This makes no sense, as the trucks would make even more noise if they had to come to a complete stop. On top of that, we find out she runs a logging operation on her property (no trucks there, Edna).
The even bigger problem with this episode are the several breaks in character continuity from previous episodes. Normally likable and benevolent, Ruth-Anne becomes a tyrannical bully. She blackmails Joel into serving as an election official. During her moderation of the debate, she strictly admonishes Holling for interrupting Edna, yet ignores Edna's interruptions of Holling. Ruth-Anne's character is an atheist, yet quotes a bible verse when Chris enters the polling hall. She is uncharacteristically rude during this Q&A section of the debate:
-Random Townsman: Uh, I was wondering if the candidates saw the stop sign as a Jeffersonian or Hamiltonian expression of democracy in action?
-Ruth-Anne: What kind of a stupid question is that? Sit!
The comedic irony is that it was probably the only intelligent thing said during the entire scene (Jefferson opposed use of public funds for special interests, whereas Hamilton approved of it).
Inexplicably, for just this one episode, Maurice abandons his ambitions of growing and expanding Cicely, and gets vocal against tract housing and shopping malls, which we always thought he supported.
This is a mess of an episode. Jeff Melvoin wrote a few fine episodes, but this isn't one of them.