The article suggests that a research framework that focuses on the barriers to reform would promote the analysis of both the successes and the failures of electoral initiatives. This framework asks what keeps the electoral system stable over time. The article investigates what stops reform, rather than why there is a desire to reform. The barriers framework synthesises two of the main approaches used in explaining electoral reform, institutionalism and rational choice; it is useful because it can explain both the success and the failure of reform initiatives, and even those cases of non-reform. Seven barriers are listed that reformers must overcome when trying to promote electoral reform; the article then examines the ways reformers can pass each barrier; assesses the relative strength of the various barriers; and suggests ways to advance the study of electoral reform by using the proposed barriers approach.