2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Timely, informative, well-balanced,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Politics of Voter Suppression: Defending and Expanding Americans' Right to Vote (A Century Foundation Book) (Hardcover)The Politics of Voter Suppression
There could not be a more timely book release. This review is being written approximately two weeks before the General Presidential Election, 2012. One of the subplots of this presidential election is the Republican-inspired, State-wide attempts at voter suppression, through legislation requiring a picture ID for voters, with other onerous requirements depending on the State in question. The justification of these legislations is the prevention of fraud.
If this argument seems a tad bogus, it is not surprising. The prevention of voter fraud has always been the justification of such legislation from the very beginning, starting in the 1860s, when the first attempts at disfranchisement began. Voter manipulation unfortunately is as American as apple pie. The first target were African Americans. Wang documents the form these attempts at voter suppression took: Poll Taxes, literacy tests, proof of citizenship, or outright challenges to the right to vote when that right was being exercised. While African Americans were always included in the group of citizens to be excluded, other members soon included immigrants, and then poor whites. Both parties were culpable. The parities guilty of trying to prevent a target group from voting changed, depending on who was the ruling elite at the time, or which party wanted to become the ruling elite at the time.
Fortunately, the current attempts at voter suppression have been stymied by court cases, filed in State after State, by the Democratic Party to stay implementation of these legislations pending until after the general election. Historically, this has not always been the case. Wang documents how previous legislation aimed at suppression of underclasses have lasted years, and decades, until largely outright prohibited by the federal Civil Rights legislation of the middle 60s. This legislation had many far-reaching results, as documented by Wang, principally in the Democratic loss of the South, traditionally the bastion of the Democratic Party. With Nixon's Southern Strategy and the rise of white voter discontent, the South is largely the reserve of the Republican Party.
The specter of Karl Rove, even if not mentioned in this book, looms large and is conspicuous in his absence. He is indeed the evil genius of voter manipulation, and among so many other atrocities, he is well-known for introducing another travesty called "voter caging," also discussed in this book, where mass mailings are sent, typically in neighborhoods inhabited by the target group which is sought to be excluded, and challenging those voters whose mailed has been returned as undeliverable. The rationalizations of legitimacy are dispelled, because as Wang explains, due diligence to the names or addresses of the voters to whom these mailings are sent are largely lacking.
It is interesting how the justifications to exclude otherwise qualified voters have not changed. Voter fraud is always cited as the main reason, but Wang demonstrates that this is not a valid argument, as the instances of real voter fraud are actually very rare. Surely, the events of the 1960 election, primarily in the voter turnout in Chicago, demonstrably occurred. But the Republicans were just as guilty in stuffing the ballot box as well, which was one of the reasons Richard Nixon did not challenge the voter results.
But the other reasons that are cited currently for requiring a photo ID -- we want a qualified, knowledgeable voter, or that there is no great burden in producing a photo ID -- these arguments have been made before, and were bogus then as they are bogus now.
The treatment of the subject is balanced and egalitarian. Wang starts with a discussion that there a ideological goal called the Principle of Inclusion, where it is a good thing to include as many voters in the social dialogue because this strengthens the social fabric in that more people feel invested in the political direction of the country. It is a noble thought and completely consistent with the traditions of this country. Indeed, this book brilliantly sets out how there are two countervailing forces at work in this country with regard to voter franchise, one which has been played out since the inception of the republic: one, which seeks to further the Principle of Inclusion to include as many eligible voters into the social process as possible, and two, the other, which would seek to restrict the voter pool, almost always for purely partisan reasons. This was demonstrated in the enactment of the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Acts, but is more recently demonstrated by the protracted attempt to enact the National Voter Registration Act, called "Motor Voter" laws because registration was to be accomplished in the DMV agencies of the States. The book deftly describes the vociferous opposition of President Bush I, and congressional Republicans, who stonewalled the enacting the bill because it, you guessed it, promoted voter fraud. It was enacted once President Clinton was inaugurated in office with the help of Democratic majorities in house and Senate. The book describes a study conducted one year after its enactment which showed that, again, you were right, it did NOT promote voter fraud. But this is how the struggle plays out, the forces for inclusion against the forces for exclusion. Outside of the American Voter being the loser in this struggle, as Wang so aptly demonstrates, another loser is that bankrupt argument, "Voter Fraud." It has been used so often to substantiate forces of exclusion that it has no relation to reality anymore. Wang emphasizes that in that most infamous of elections -- the Presidential Election of 2000 -- the focus was on rampant disenfranchisement and malfunctioning voter machines, but there was not one documented instance of voter fraud!!
This is a book for any serious political science student or anyone interested in current events.
The Politics of Voter Suppression: Defending and Expanding Americans' Right to Vote (A Century Foundation Book)(4 customer reviews)
Location: Fresno, California
Top Reviewer Ranking: 4,204