- Hardcover: 181 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press; First Edition, First Printing edition (April 5, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691136947
- ISBN-13: 978-0691136943
- Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 0.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
#2,129,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #2432 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > Elections & Political Process > Elections
- #2836 in Books > Textbooks > Social Sciences > Political Science > Political Ideologies
- #3364 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > Ideologies & Doctrines > Democracy
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The Democracy Index: Why Our Election System Is Failing and How to Fix It First Edition, First Printing Edition
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"The Democracy Index is an incredibly powerful work because it shows the way forward for using data in the service of reform. . . . A powerful call for a new approach to election administration. Anyone with even a tangential interest in improving our nation's election system should take some time to read the book."--Doug Chapin, Electionline Weekly
"Gerken writes in an accessible and engaging style, making this book about a not exactly-sexy topic a pretty good read. Her prose are written in a welcome straight-forward, and unstuffy style. . . . Filled with anecdotes and examples to support and flesh-out the author's arguments, The Democracy Index is a quick, interesting and important read for anyone invested in America getting Democracy right."--Stefan Fergus, Civilian Reader
"Gerken is well aware of the pertinent literature and uses it effectively to describe the information we have about voting and the information we lack. I found her argument compelling. I was particularly impressed by the way in which she anticipated criticisms and responded to them. The psychological underpinning upon which she bases her case is equally impressive. This is a very good book with an important idea. I hope that it gains a wide and appreciative readership that generates a much-needed debate on election reform in the United States."--Stephen J. Wayne, Perspectives on Politics
"[Gerken's] book provides a valuable contribution and is a very useful starting point for thoughtful discussion and consideration of the data we need to evaluate democracy."--Lonna Rae Atkeson, Political Science Quarterly
"Addressing a timely topic in highly accessible style, this book is recommended for all interested readers."--Bob Nardini, Library Journal
"The Democracy Index not only reconnects the legal academy with election administration at just the right time, but also points to a new framework for reorienting election law as a field of study and an area for legal reform. . . . Beyond its academic impact on election-law scholarship, The Democracy Index may be a rare example of the best hopes of scholarship, transcending theory into practice as a meaningful political reform where it is badly needed."--Michael S. Kang, Texas Law Review
"Anyone interested in learning what's wrong with the American election system should read Heather Gerken's book. It outlines the case for change and gives many concrete examples. . . . Gerken's Democracy Index is an excellent, affordable low risk idea. Let us hope it is taken up. It is certainly worth a try."--Peter Brent, Australian Review of Public Affairs
From the Back Cover
"Gerken has written a compelling and practical plan for improving the conduct of American elections. The Democracy Index offers a politically sophisticated strategy for converting those forces that typically frustrate reform--partisanship and localism--into engines of reform. Given the evident shortcomings in the ways in which citizens register to vote, cast their ballots, and have their choices counted, the subject of this book could not be more important. And Gerken's lively and engaging prose makes it a genuine pleasure to read."--Thomas E. Mann, coauthor of The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How To Get It Back on Track
"What a terrific idea! Heather Gerken makes a powerful argument that with the Democracy Index, ranking states and localities, we can create a little competition to improve our electoral process. She makes the brilliant suggestion that democratic checks should be enlisted to improve democracy itself. In the process of elaborating what may well be the best recent idea for promoting electoral reform, Gerken offers a fun and engaging read. I couldn't put it down."--Cass R. Sunstein, coauthor of Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness
"The idea that drives The Democracy Index is fresh, original, and potentially of genuine practical importance in improving the performance of our election system. Heather Gerken writes with energy, flair, and a conversational, engaging tone that draws readers in."--Richard Pildes, coauthor of The Law of Democracy
"The idea of The Democracy Index is brilliant and it seems obvious once it is stated. I suspect that I will not be alone in wishing that I had come up with the idea. This book will appeal to a wide audience."--Michael Hanmer, coauthor of Voting Technology: The Not-So-Simple Act of Casting a Ballot
"The Democracy Index is very exciting. It covers all the important aspects of the Index and effectively explains how it could improve the electoral process."--Thad Hall, coauthor of Electronic Elections
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Top customer reviews
Basically, Gerkin explains that there is not enough good data on why elections have problems, and until we collect better data on the process, we will not be able to solve the problems. Once we have better data, states and localities that have poor election systems can learn from the policies of the states and localities that have better election systems.
Gerkin sees two main problems with the current elelction system: partisanship and localism. Gerken also notes that "my assumption is that most election problems are caused by resource shortage, not partisanship."
Gerkin wants to "create an environment that is receptive to change." Her Democracy Index is "a data-driven, information-forcing device designed to generate pressure for reform." The Democracy Index's goal is to "rank states and localities based on election performance." The result would be that "a bad ranking provides a justification for getting more resources; a good ranking helps...protect a policy that is under attack."
Gerkin describes the good information that the Democracy Index could provide, and also identifies and discusses possible problems with the idea. It's refreshing to see someone explain both the costs and benefits of a plan. Gerkin compares the Democracy Index to other ratings system as well, to show how well such ratings work (and don't work). Gerkin also discusses the difficulties of enacting reform, and how these challenges could be overcome.
It seems to me that Gerkin may underestimate the cost of developing and maintaining the Democracy Index. The ranking system works only if "good" data is identified, and much effort would be needed to gather the data, analyze the data, verify that the data has not been tampered with, and publish the data.
Also, Gerkin does not really discuss whether or not the public truly sees election reform as a high-priority problem. Maybe it's a much more interesting problem to lawyers who study the election process and work on election campaigns?
Gerkin is a lawyer and professor of law at the Yale Law School. She worked in the "boiler room" as part of Obama's 2008 campaign's election protection team. Through this experience Gerkin had a front seat from which to observe the election process in action.
Though Gerkin worked for Obama, her book is free of partisan ideology, political sniping, and name-calling. This is a book both progressives and conservatives should enjoy reading.
Throughout the book Gerkin presents her arguments in clear, well-documented language, free of legal and academic jargon. It's a pleasure to read such a well-written book.