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Stealing Democracy: The New Politics of Voter Suppression

1 rating: 5.0
A book by Spencer Overton

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 … see full wiki

Tags: Book
Author: Spencer Overton
Publisher: W. W. Norton
1 review about Stealing Democracy: The New Politics of...

"The legitimacy of democracy depends upon the right of every citizen to vote."

  • Jun 10, 2006
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."

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.

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