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Steal This Vote: Dirty Elections and the Rotten History of Democracy in America Paperback – July 13, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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 v. Gore 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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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 Ford
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books; Edition Unstated edition (July 13, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560256761
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560256762
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #740,311 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By J. Irmas on September 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
Because elections are the foundation of any functioning democracy, Andrew Gumbel's illuminating book serves as a sort-of alternate history of American "democracy." His historical research sheds some light on the long-held American tradition of dirty elections, and his report on electronic voting machines should be mandatory reading for anybody who considers themselves a true patriot.

His chapter on the 2004 election, however, is riddled with inaccuracies and oversights. Gumbel obviously did not read "What Went Wrong in Ohio," a.k.a. the Conyers report (available on Amazon). If he had, he would have known that the recount in Ohio was rigged by partisan technicians, and therefore, not a true confirmation of Bush's "victory." Team Bush stole the 2004 election, in ways far more subversive than 2000, thus averting 36 days of legal deliberations and partisan spin. All the evidence is hidden in plain sight, lucidly compiled in "Fooled Again" by Mark Crispin Miller (for the sake of full disclosure, I worked on Miller's book, but will not recieve a penny from its sales. My intention is to encourage people to read as much as possible about the current state of our electoral system).

Read Gumbel's book. Then supplement it with Miller's and the Conyers report. Decide for yourself: was the 2004 election stolen?
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Gumbel has run over the history of American electoral fraud, starting as early as 1788 and running through extensive discussions of the 2000 and 2004 elections.

On the way we learn about a number of fascinating scandals of the past, now largely forgotten, along with some that haven't been, such as the famous Tammany Hall gang that dominated New York City for a decade. Gumbel shows that, while big-city corruption got the publicity, elections in many rural areas were equally dirty. He also show how periodic concerns over ballot box stuffing have resulted in a numbr of reforms that, by making voting harder, have effectively lowered participation, which was once at around 80% of eligible voters, and now is sometimes below 50%. For instance, the secret ballot, by replacing earlier party-distributed ballots that had shown, by color and logos, which party they represented, had the quite intentional effect of disenfranchising many illiterate immigrants and former slaves. The practice of denying the vote to convicted felons even after completion of their sentence was invented entirely to prevent former slaves from voting, and is used to disenfranchise blacks to this day, as notably happened in Florida 2000.

Gumbel's discussion of the Florida crisis is useful, although I thought a little too hard on Gore. His discussion of Ohio 2004, which he feels was clearly a legitimate victory, although he does show the strong evidence of illegitimate means used to suppress the Kerry vote, is obviously unconvincing for many of his readers here. (It's interesting to note that, although the book really works not to be a partisan tract, the reviewers on Amazon seem to be overwhelmingly Democrats.
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Wow! After 2000 and 2004 I really did feel like the crisis of electoral politics in the US was systemic but not until Gumbel's book did I realize that the history is all there, well there in HIS book, not in my high school or college history books. Thank heaven he ends with tangible suggestions for solutions and ways to return us to a true democracy. Now the job is to organize to make those suggestions into reality.
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I was really impressed with this book. This is an incredibly important topic, and the author is so immensely knowledgeable, and his handling of the material is so comprehensive and fair, that by the end, I felt closer to grasping what's been going on with American politics than ever before. It turned my perception of the whole voting process in America completely around (I really never suspected it was THIS bad). If you have any interest at all in politics (and if you don't, well, you might be past saving), you should read this, and pass it along, and talk about it. It's an eye-opener. And so entertaining! I laughed out loud several times, and throughout, I felt that the author was presenting really substantial, weighty information in an appealing, witty style. (It's a fun book to cart around, too -- about 15 people stopped me and asked me about the book after glimpsing the title.)
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The election travesties of 2000 and 2004 left me angry and disgusted. I'm still angry and disgusted about those events and their conduct, but after reading Gumbel's book, I've softened my impressions a bit and redirected the focus of my ire and disgust. It's clear to me now that no American political party has ever seriously objected to election theft as long as the result was victory. Since achieving honest elections has never been an honest goal (except temporarily for the losers), a party in power has never had genuine interest in realizing honest results! So, here we are.

I shouldn't be surprised at all that, but Gumbel's detail, clarity and focus make me wonder why I'm so late coming to the full realization table.

Gumbel provides clear insight. Nevertheless, the reader is left to judge for himself what all this says about the alleged state of democracy in the U.S.A., past and present.
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