From Publishers Weekly
Covering much the same territory as Andrew Gumbel's recent Steal This Vote, Campbell highlights the imperfect aspects of American elections, covering such known problems as the undemocratic practices of the urban political machines during their heyday in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But even as late as 1987, according to Barrett, the price of a vote in a Kentucky race could reach $200. He also retells the oft-forgotten story of alleged vote buying for John Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election. With the wealth of evidence that Campbell has amassed, there's little doubt that the goal of free and fair elections has not always been met in American history. Nor, as the disputed election of 2000 shows, does this problem seem to be going away. But Campbell (The Politics of Despair: Power and Resistance in the Tobacco Wars) lumps together systemic problems, such as denying women and blacks the right to vote, with illegal transgressions, like vote buying. At the same time, he fails to acknowledge the advances made by American democracy, perhaps because this would weaken his case that the "process itself was deeply corrupted and had been so for over two hundred years."
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*Starred Review* According to Campbell, buying votes, stuffing or destroying ballots, moving polling locations, transposing results, importing illegal voters from other towns or states, and suppressing, disenfranchising, and sometimes killing voters comprises a long, sordid tradition in American political culture. Despite all the changes in the mechanics of voting and the apparent safeguards, how has fraud--flagrant and subtle--persisted, Campbell asks. The answer, so Campbell argues, is a deeply embedded culture within American politics that considers cheating fully justifiable. The author indicates that those contributing to this "culture of corruption" have not been limited to cigar-chomping party bosses. Precinct captains, poll officials, and police officers were involved, as well as teachers, lawyers, and clergy. Campbell insists that his aim is to use selected examples from various eras and locales to describe how this culture has developed and survived over the years, believing that the solution is to be aware that there is a problem and to confront the truth that election fraud has been a common component in our nation's electoral history. The book's conclusions lead to the realization that election fraud is a crime that usually pays, which will come as no surprise to most readers; but the author's meticulously researched book stands without rivals as the most balanced and comprehensive on the subject. George Cohen
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