The Politics of Voter Suppression: Defending and Expanding Americans' Right to Vote

Overview

The Politics of Voter Suppression arrives in time to assess actual practices at the polls this fall and to reengage with debates about voter suppression tactics such as requiring specific forms of identification. Tova Andrea Wang examines the history of how U.S. election reforms have been manipulated for partisan advantage and establishes a new framework for analyzing current laws and policies. The tactics that have been employed to suppress voting in recent elections are not novel, she finds, but rather build ...

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The Politics of Voter Suppression: defending and expanding Americans' right to vote

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Overview

The Politics of Voter Suppression arrives in time to assess actual practices at the polls this fall and to reengage with debates about voter suppression tactics such as requiring specific forms of identification. Tova Andrea Wang examines the history of how U.S. election reforms have been manipulated for partisan advantage and establishes a new framework for analyzing current laws and policies. The tactics that have been employed to suppress voting in recent elections are not novel, she finds, but rather build upon the strategies used by a variety of actors going back nearly a century and a half. This continuity, along with the shift to a Republican domination of voter suppression efforts for the past fifty years, should inform what we think about reform policy today.

Wang argues that activities that suppress voting are almost always illegitimate, while reforms that increase participation are nearly always legitimate. In short, use and abuse of election laws and policies to suppress votes has obvious detrimental impacts on democracy itself. Such activities are also harmful because of their direct impacts on actual election outcomes. Wang regards as beneficial any legal effort to increase the number of Americans involved in the electoral system. This includes efforts that are focused on improving voter turnout among certain populations typically regarded as supporting one party, as long as the methods and means for boosting participation are open to all. Wang identifies and describes a number of specific legitimate and positive reforms that will increase voter turnout.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Some 29% of eligible voters aren’t registered; many of those who are, particularly the poor, minorities, and students, have their votes “suppressed” through challenges before, and on, election day. Wang, senior democracy fellow at Demos and fellow at the Century Foundation, notes that in the 19th century, potential voters were stymied by “poll taxes, literacy tests, and outright intimidation.” Today, voters face more subtle challenges, such as “caging” (eliminating voters from the rolls on the basis of letters returned from their mailing addresses), and uneven distribution of voting machines and poll workers. While both parties once engaged in barring voters, Wang finds that over the past 50 years, the overwhelming majority of political leaders who do so are Republican. Wang writes informatively of the largest block of disenfranchised Americans, the 5.3 million who have committed a felony, two million of whom have completed their sentences. She helpfully concludes with a series of recommendations for creating a larger, more inclusive electorate, including election-day registration (states with EDR had a voter turnout 8%–15% higher than other states in the 2000 and 2004 elections). This well-researched and argued book succeeds in illustrating how, for short-term partisan gain, some political leaders have undermined America’s bid for “universal suffrage” and what can be done to significantly broaden the electorate. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
"This well-researched and well-argued book succeeds in illustrating how, for short-term partisan gain, some political leaders have undermined America's bid for 'universal suffrage' and what can be done to significantly broaden the electorate."—Publishers Weekly (11 June 2012)

"Tova Andrea Wang nails it! The great promise of America loses all meaning when roadblocks are placed between citizens and the voting booth. This important book drives that point home with clarity and enormous insight. It will both enlighten and disturb you."—Bob Herbert, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Demos, and former Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times

"It is one of our country's great achievements that since our founding, we have become steadily more democratic, extending the right to vote to those without property, to African Americans, to women, and to others previously excluded from the joys and responsibilities of self-rule. But there is a constant and often insidious pushback against broad political participation, and Tova Andrea Wang tells the story of voter suppression efforts with passion, care and great shrewdness. The Politics of Voter Suppression is an essential book at a time when efforts to keep citizens from the polls have intensified. And it offers a highly practical recipe for making our nation more democratic and our elections a truer reflection of the will of all the people."—E. J. Dionne Jr., author of Our Divided Political Heart and syndicated columnist

"Tova Wang has written a well researched and balanced account of past and modern-day voter suppression, the scope and extent of which will no doubt come as a surprise, and shock, to many readers."—Laughlin McDonald, Director, ACLU Voting Rights Project

"If you care about the current state of American democracy, you should read The Politics of Voter Suppression. Tova Wang's bold and passionate book explains how and why 'voter suppression’ came to be such a visible, and partisan, issue. It also offers a compelling vision of ‘inclusion’ as a principle that ought to govern our electoral practices."—Alexander Keyssar, Stirling Professor of History and Social Policy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, author of The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the U.S.

"In The Politics of Voter Suppression, Tova Andrea Wang skillfully weaves together historical and contemporary examples of voter suppression. The picture that emerges should worry anyone who believes that all citizens should have an equal voice in our democracy. Wang amasses a formidable body of evidence against those who would impair the fundamental right to vote. She also makes a compelling case for reforms like Election Day Registration that would promote a more inclusive democracy."—Daniel Tokaji, Robert M. Duncan/Jones Day Designated Professor of Law, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801450853
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 8/21/2012
  • Series: A Century Foundation Book Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 200
  • Sales rank: 473,538
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Tova Andrea Wang is Senior Democracy Fellow at Demos and Fellow at The Century Foundation.

Janice Nittoli is President of The Century Foundation.

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Table of Contents

Foreword Janice Nittoli ix

Preface xiii

1 The Voter Inclusion Principle 1

2 The Early Years of Vote Suppression 16

3 Conditions and Consequences of the Voting Rights Act 29

4 Vote Suppression Goes National-and Republican 42

5 The Battle over Motor Voter 60

6 The Election of 2000 and Its Fallout 75

7 A Slight Upswing 91

8 Effects on Election Outcomes 108

9 How to Increase Participation 126

Epilogue: What Citizens Can Do 156

Notes 161

Acknowledgments 187

Index 189

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