From Publishers Weekly
In a riveting and frightening account, Gumbel, U.S. correspondent for Britain's Independent
, traces election fraud in America from the 18th century to the present, spotlighting the Hayes-Tilden election of 1876, vote buying in the Gilded Age and the history of black disenfranchisement in the post-Reconstruction South. The last 100 pages are devoted to the elections of 2000 and 2004. Gumbel rehearses the Florida mess and argues that those who care about voting rights should be terrified by Justice Scalia's argument in Bush
that the Constitution doesn't per se guarantee a right of suffrage. Gumbel shows that the confusion (at best) and cheating (at worst) that went on in Florida are not unusual, describing numerous county and state elections plagued with problems: registered voters purged from the rolls; queues at polling places so long that would-be voters gave up; and confusing ballots. Who are the villains? Not just the Republicans; he shows Democrats equally willing to play dirty. This book is sure to be controversial, and if it garners media attention, that's all for the good, for the issues Gumbel so winningly addresses are crucial to the future of democracy. (Sept.)
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Despite the great surprise and concern about electoral fraud in the last two presidential elections, dirty elections are nothing new in American history. Journalist Gumbel suggests that voter fraud is as old as the nation itself. Although the political Right and Left have their divergent views on the causes of such corruption, in reality both appear to recognize and concede that whoever wins wins, because both sides have equally dirty hands. Many of the technological solutions to mitigate election fraud have become the means by which it is secured. In part 1, Gumbel covers voting in the age before mechanization, from post-Reconstruction through Chicago-style Mob rule that helped elect President Kennedy. In part 2, he covers voting in the machine age, noting that the benefits of technological advancement are in the eye of the beholder who benefits by winning. Gumbel includes international assessments of our electoral process, including lack of national standards regarding felons and inadequate protection of minorities' and low-income citizens' votes. However, he provides general recommendations worthy of consideration, including direct elections and same-day registration. Vernon FordCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved