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Stealing Democracy: The New Politics of Voter Suppression Paperback – January 23, 2013
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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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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."
Each chapter addresses different aspects of the complex voting matrix at this point in our history: Chapter One questions who is guarding the gates of our democracy and who is in charge of redrawing district boundaries; Chapter Two speaks to local control of elections and how available monies affect the democratic process; Chapter Three takes on the elephant in the living room, whether race still matters in America; Chapter Four discusses the critical importance of the federal Voting Rights Act and how it protects citizens against the discriminatory legislation of state and local politicians; Chapter Five considers all aspects of making voting available to all citizens, with attention to bilingual issues; and Chapter Six tackles "an emerging anti-fraud movement that proposes... voter-ID requirements that threaten to exclude more legitimate voters than fraudulent ones."
The concluding chapter takes these issues to the people, where the discussion belongs, average Americans from all walks of life and socio-economic backgrounds and their views on potential reforms in the community. A tall order for a small book, but Overton injects much-needed clarity into a subject that becomes more critical with each election. There are no easy answers and reform is slow, but in the words of Thom Hartmann (What Would Jefferson Do?): "Systematic change never happens from the top down: it's always from the bottom up." Luan Gaines/2006.