Stealing Democracy: The New Politics of Voter Suppression by Spencer Overton, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Stealing Democracy: The New Politics of Voter Suppression
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Stealing Democracy: The New Politics of Voter Suppression

by Spencer Overton
     
 

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"A must-read for anyone who is concerned about our deeply flawed electoral system."—Congressman John Conyers, Jr.
Politicians spew shallow words describing a self-governing American people, who select their representatives. In reality, politicians maintain power by selecting voters. Elected officials and bureaucrats control thousands of election

Overview

"A must-read for anyone who is concerned about our deeply flawed electoral system."—Congressman John Conyers, Jr.
Politicians spew shallow words describing a self-governing American people, who select their representatives. In reality, politicians maintain power by selecting voters. Elected officials and bureaucrats control thousands of election practices—from district boundaries to English-only ballots—that determine political winners and losers. Through real-life stories, Spencer Overton shows how these practices determine policies on issues that shape our lives, and he provides strategies for restoring government by the people. Overton's compelling case is vital to the future of our democracy. With a new afterword.

Editorial Reviews

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 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The U.S. Constitution assigns most of the management of elections to the states, which, in turn, allow their two major parties to dictate voting terms. For Overton (George Washington Univ. Law Sch.), a member of the Carter-Baker Election Reform Commission of 2005, the patchwork quilt of 102 party organizations (the Democratic and Republican parties in each state plus the two national committees) has produced a nefarious collection of rules that has suppressed the votes of too many citizens, especially the poor and people of color. He argues that the voting system isn't fair, balanced, efficient, or predictable but is instead controlled by the partisan organizations to keep their own members in office; as in The Matrix, the powers-that-be have manipulated the public into believing that it is in control. While the film analogy may help the book appeal to younger readers, its hint of conspiracy theory lessens the legitimacy of Overton's argument. Furthermore, the organization of elections has been in the hands of the states and political parties since the early 19th century, an arrangement our federal courts have consistently upheld. Nonetheless, Overton's book offers clear and cogent insights into the problems of our voting system. A worthy purchase for all public and academic libraries and essential for any collection that holds the Carter-Baker Commission Report. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Voting rights are under siege in America, declares the author, who proposes several sweeping remedies. With expertise honed while working for the National Voting Rights Institute and the Carter/Baker Election Reform Commission, Overton (Law/George Washington Univ.) explains how democracy can be subverted without citizens even noticing. Disenfranchisement does not always occur at the voting booth, he warns, providing cautionary tales about computer gerrymandering, partisan oversight of elections and systemic discrimination based on race, class, native language and criminal history. At every turn, Overton finds self-interested politicians maneuvering to cut deals, protect their jobs and tip the scales for their allies. Many readers will be sympathetic to reform after reviewing his litany of undemocratic incidents and self-incriminating remarks about rigging elections made by unwary politicos. Overton cites encouraging precedents for major electoral reform, from the intricate case law advancing African-Americans' voting rights to the constitutional amendments enfranchising women, minorities and draft-age Americans. (The 26th Amendment granted the right to vote to those as young as 18 after the Vietnam War.) But he also warns that some enemies of democracy are trying to co-opt reform to reduce voter turnout. Dissenting from the Election Reform Commission on which he served, he skewers new photo-ID requirements as unnecessary barriers to voting and instead advocates universal voter registration. The book's rigid formula-a brief history, recent case study and bite-size solution offered in every chapter-sometimes wears thin. Yet Overton makes a compelling case that beneath the rhetoricalflourishes, American democracy is governed by a flawed election system: often capricious, sometimes unjust and rarely understood by the general public. To change this, Americans will need energy, optimism and "a mindset of resistance and independence."An approachable and constructive work.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393330939
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
11/05/2007
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
737,786
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Spencer Overton, a professor at George Washington University Law School, served on the Jimmy Carter/James Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform and was the Charles Hamilton Houston Fellow at Harvard Law School. He lives in Washington, DC.

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