Rethinking American Electoral Democracy / Edition 2

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Overview

In this critical examination of the state of the American electoral process, Matthew Streb analyzes the major debates that embroil scholars and reformers on subjects ranging from the number of elections we hold and the use of nonpartisan elections, to the presidential nominating process and campaign finance laws. Ultimately, Streb makes an argument for a less burdensome democracy, a democracy in which citizens can participate more easily. This book is designed to get students of elections and American political institutions to think critically about what it means to be democratic and how democratic the United States really is.

About the Author:
Matthew J. Streb is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Northern Illinois University. His books include: The New Electoral Politics of Race (University of Alabama)

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Matthew Streb is one of the leading scholars on electoral politics, and his updated and revised edition of Rethinking American Electoral Democracy is excellent. Streb takes on many of the components of our democratic system and convincingly argues that they are not always for the best. Most of all, the book directly engages readers on many important and contemporary topics and will no doubt cause readers to think in ways they haven't considered about American democracy. In this revised edition, Streb once again make a big splash that will get people talking and debating democracy in America."
Matt A. Barreto, University of Washington

"Matthew Streb offers an accessible and thought-provoking volume that challenges the reader to think beyond the parameters of what is presented through most media outlets. Streb reminds us that what we know (or think we know) about voting behavior is necessarily contextualized by the institutional elements within which such decision making exists. He drills down to the very core of democratic theory with relevant examples and helpful anecdotes to demonstrate the importance (and urgency) of understanding elections in a more sophisticated way."
Stephen M. Caliendo, North Central College

"Rethinking American Electoral Democracy is a terrific book. It offers a remarkably thorough assessment of the structural challenges facing the U.S. electoral system. Streb’s questions are provocative and his answers can be surprising. The analysis is scholarly, but undergraduate students will appreciate the writing style along with the author’s amusing personal stories about the problems he analyzes."
David Jones, James Madison University

"In this era of intensified partisanship, voter anger, and grass roots activism such as the so-called Tea Party movement, students need an intelligent primer on the challenges of maintaining the world’s most stable democracy. As this clearly written and engaging volume demonstrates, not all is well with the American democratic system. Streb provides the fundamentals that students need to know, but he also offers challenges to some of their widely held beliefs about our system and ideas on how to improve it."
Mark Rozell, George Mason University

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Matthew J. Streb is Associate Professor of Political Science at Northern Illinois University. His books include The New Electoral Politics of Race (University of Alabama); Academic Freedom at the Dawn of a New Century (Stanford University); Running for Judge (NYU); Law and Election Politics: The Rules of the Game (Lynne Rienner); and Polls and Politics: The Dilemmas of Democracy (SUNY).

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Table of Contents

List of figures and tables     x
Preface     xi
Acknowledgments     xiii
Creating a model electoral democracy     1
Criteria for a model electoral democracy     2
A few comments     5
Overview of the book     6
Rethinking the costs of voting     9
Factors that influence voter turnout     11
"Didn't we just vote?"     11
Other barriers to voting     16
The offices we elect     26
Do we really need to vote for coroner?     27
The case of judicial elections     29
Direct democracy     44
What is the initiative process and how does it work?     45
Some misconceptions about the initiative process     47
Why the public supports the initiative proces     54
The problems with the initiative process     57
Some potential reforms     60
Recall elections     61
Rethinking the mechanics of voting     65
Ballot laws     67
Getting on the ballot     67
Candidate information on the ballot     71
The order of candidates' names on the ballot     75
Ballot design     77
Voting machines     80
Different types of voting machines     81
The problem with punch card ballots     82
The pros and cons of the remaining contenders     83
A word on Internet voting     89
So, what's the solution?     92
Rethinking national elections     95
The redistricting process     97
How does the process work?     98
The goals of redistricting     99
What should be the goals of redistricting?     108
What process best achieves the goals of redistricting?     113
Presidential primaries     116
King Caucus and the smoke-filled rooms     117
Reforms to the presidential primary process     118
The Electoral College     133
What is the Electoral College? Why do we have it?     133
Arguments in favor of the Electoral College and why they are flawed     136
The reasons for change     140
Attempts to reform the Electoral College     142
The future of the Electoral College     147
Campaign finance     151
A brief history of campaign finance reform     152
The concerns of campaign finance reformers     157
The favorite solution: publicly financed elections     160
A controversial solution     163
Conclusion: Moving toward a model electoral democracy     171
Revisiting the criteria for a model electoral democracy     171
Other improvements to American electoral democracy     175
The prospects for reform     177
Notes     179
Bibliography     201
Court cases     219
Index     221
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