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Stealing Democracy: The New Politics of Voter Suppressionby Spencer Overton
Synopses & Reviews
Spencer Overton attacks the least-inspected area of our democracy: partisan control of the ballot box.
While politicians spew shallow sound bites that describe a "free" American people who govern themselves by selecting their representatives, in reality politicians from both parties maintain control by selecting specific voters. Incumbent politicians control thousands of election practices and bureaucratic hurdles that determine who votes and how their votes are counted, including the location of election-district boundaries, the number of booths at urban polling places, and English-only ballots. Spencer Overton uses real-life stories to show how these seemingly insignificant practices channel political power and determine policies on war, schools, clean air, and other issues that shape our lives. He exposes the pressure points in this Orwellian system and provides strategies toward restoring self-government, including removing redistricting power from self-interested partisans and renewing parts of the Voting Rights Act that expire in 2007. Overton's compelling case is vital to the future of our democracy.
"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)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Overton uses real-life stories to show how seemingly insignificant factors--such as how many booths are at polling sites and how district boundaries are drawn--channel political power and determine policies on war, schools, clean air, and other life-affecting issues.
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