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Stealing Democracy: The New Politics of Voter Suppression Paperback – January 23, 2013

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Stealing Democracy: The New Politics of Voter Suppression + The Politics of Voter Suppression: Defending and Expanding Americans' Right to Vote (A Century Foundation Book)
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Overton takes a wonky but worthy look at the "matrix" of "thousands of election regulations and practices" that can discourage—if not completely suppress—citizens from voting or make their votes count less. A law professor and election reform activist, Overton makes concrete proposals for restoring power to voters. Redistricting, he says, is often conducted in a partisan manner; Overton recommends that the United States assign the responsibility to an independent commission. He calls for federal standards for counting ballots and the provision of voting machines. The much-debated Voting Rights Act, Overton argues, remains vital, though those invoking it should more carefully analyze "practices that disadvantage voters of color." In answer to those bilingual education opponents who might withhold "democracy from Americans with limited English skills," he also argues that bilingual ballots would "advance citizen engagement." Overton warns that a photo ID requirement for voting would exclude those (e.g., the poor, many people of color) who don't have driver's licenses. Citing relatively low voter turnout and lack of centralized election oversight, the author notes how the United States "deviates from democratic norms" of other established democracies, concluding with profiles of activists to inspire the citizens' movement needed to enact the sensible reforms he advocates. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


A must-read for anyone who is concerned about our deeply flawed electoral system. -- Congressman John Conyers, Jr.

A through, brilliant and impartial assessment of continuing problems at the ballot box. -- Donna Brazile, author of Cooking with Grease : Stirring the Pots in American Politics --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (November 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393330931
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393330939
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #711,027 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I'm a law professor at George Washington University, and I teach courses in voting rights and campaign finance. I served as a commissioner on the Jimmy Carter-James Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform, and dissented from the Commission's proposal for photo ID at the polls. I'm also a member of the boards of Common Cause, Demos, and the Center for Responsive Politics.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Voting in national elections has become a hot topic in the last two national elections, especially since the common use of computerized voting machines, particularly those without paper receipts. The democratic vote is vital to the health of the nation and it behooves every citizen, regardless of party affiliation, to be well informed, insuring the security of a vital process in choosing our elected officials. In Stealing Democracy, Overton reveals some of the current problems in the voting "matrix" in an effort to stimulate discussion and action on the part of concerned citizens: "In our closely divided political environment, even an obscure election rule in a single state can determine who sits in the White House or which party controls Congress."

The author emphasizes, and rightly so, that there is no great conspiracy orchestrated by a few. Rather, there is a "collection of ever-changing rules and practices employed... that shape who goes to the polls and which votes are counted." The voting process is affected by election laws, secretaries of state, election commissioners, county election boards, poll challenges and poll workers, not to mention budgetary constraints, fraud prevention and "state's rights". With the potential for abuse inherent in bureaucracy, "America's founders divided government power among executive, legislative and judicial branches in order to prevent abuses.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By S. Divers on June 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I highly recommend this powerful book! American voters are inundated with superficial corporate media reports that tap dances across the surface of complex issues like the health of American democracy, our elections and immigration.

Spencer Overton's highly readable "Stealing Democracy" explores what is really going on behind the curtains of our American democracy in our local communities, the state and national level. And it is chilling. But it is the kind of frank discussion that the American public needs to read so that we will be in a better position to get involved as citizens and exert a truer ownership over our own government that has so much daily influence on our lives.

I particularly appreciated how Professor Overton looks back at the historical roots of voter suppression in our American political system dating back to the early 1800s. The more things change, the more they stay the same: He examines gerry-mandering, the English-only Movement, voter registration purging, Voter ID legislation, and all the other ways that politicians continue to try to discourage those people that aren't inclined to vote for them to stay home on Election Day.

Professor Overton also looks at the chilling ways in which the venerable Voting Rights Act of 1965 is currently under attack by the right wing.

Today it is obvious to whomever is paying attention that there is a sustained effort to turn the clock way back on voter enfranchisement for the elderly, the poor, people of color and the handicapped.

Enlighten yourself on the new politics of voter suppression and how we can stop it: Read this book and recommend it to your friends as well!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne on June 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book provides so much insight into some serious problems facing our democracy. Overton helps the reader understand what's really going on at the polls, as well as before you get there and after you leave - he explains how politicians of both parties are using redistricting, Voter ID, English-only ballots, felon disenfranchisement, voter purges, and other manipulative and restrictive devices to essentially shield themselves from true competition on the merits of their ideas and policies. They are using this 'matrix' of tricks to swing elections in their favor. I loved the book because not only did I learn a lot about the serious flaws with our election process -- which are not front and center in the press --but Overton actually proposes some solutions that could really work. Plus, even though I've never really been politically active, after reading this book and the stories of "activists" who are regular people, I'm inspired to get involved in my community to try to improve the political process. Perhaps most surprising, even though the book has such an important subject, it's actually easy to read, and at times very funny. (Although at times you may also become angry and frustrated as you learn about the true status quo in politics.) Trying to help this country realize the true dream of America is an important form of patriotism. Spencer Overton has gone above and beyond his civic duty with this wonderful book. I recommend it very, very highly.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Joshua A. H. Harris on July 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Overton's insightful, eye-opening presentation of critical and often overlooked problems with America's system of voting and democratic representation is a must-read for political science students, law students, and, quite frankly, anyone who votes (and wants his or her vote to count). Stealing Democracy is comprehensible, elegant, and highly stimulating.
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