Magnificent Marvel Supersale
 
 

Special Offers see all

Enter to WIN a $100 Credit

Subscribe to PowellsBooks.news
for a chance to win.
Privacy Policy

Visit our stores


    Recently Viewed clear list


    Lists | March 2, 2015

    Anna Lyndsey: IMG My Top 10 Talking Books



    I have always been a reader, but eight years ago, strange circumstances conspired to make me totally book-dependent. I was stuck within four walls,... Continue »

    spacer
Qualifying orders ship free.
$4.95
Used Hardcover
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Add to Wishlist
Qty Store Section
1 Burnside American Studies- Politics

More copies of this ISBN

Gaming the Vote: Why Elections Aren't Fair (and What We Can Do about It)

by

Gaming the Vote: Why Elections Aren't Fair (and What We Can Do about It) Cover

ISBN13: 9780809048939
ISBN10: 0809048930
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
All Product Details

Only 1 left in stock at $4.95!

 

 

Excerpt

Prologue
 
Even when he was Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke felt he was destined for something bigger. The Klan was just one of a number of organizations that Duke had joined, been actively involved with, and discarded when they no longer fit his purpose.

As a student at Louisiana State University, Duke had studied German so that he could read Mein Kampf in the original. Each April 20, he celebrated Hitlers birthday with a party. He draped his dorm room with swastika flags and wore a Nazi uniform around campus.

Duke was equally comfortable in the uniform of an ROTC cadet. One of his instructors praised Dukes “outstanding leadership potential.” But then “we started receiving information on him from the Department of Defense . . . Here was a 19-year-old kid getting money from Germany.”

The money was for American Nazi activities. The Pentagon rejected Dukes application for an advanced-training program and refused to commission him as an officer. That rebuff caused Duke to channel his leadership potential into the Ku Klux Klan. In just a couple of years, he rose to the Klans highest post, Grand Wizard, in 1975. This meteoric ascent was a matter of his being in the right place at the right time. The previous Wizard had just been gunned down in a motel parking lot.

Duke stood out in the Klan almost as much as he had at LSU. He preferred to appear in a crisp business suit and tie rather than a hood and robe. He adopted the corporate-sounding title “National Director.” One of his more surprising actions as Klansman was to write a book called African Atto (1973), under the pseudonym Mohammed X. He sold it by mail order, taking out ads in black newspapers with the heading when was the last time whitey called you ? The book was a martial arts manual. Duke told people that its real purpose was to compile the names and addresses of the blacks who ordered it—for Ku Klux Klan records.

In 1980 Duke abruptly left the organization. His story is that he realized the Klan would never be taken seriously as a political force. It was time for the defenders of the white race to get out of the cow pastures and into the hotel suites. People who knew Duke in the Klan have a different story. “We had to get David out,” explained Karl Hand, formerly Dukes lieutenant. “He was seducing all the wives . . . He had no qualms about putting the make on anybodys wife or girlfriend, and the flak always came back to me, because I was his national organizer.”

The immediate cause of Dukes departure was his attempt to pocket a quick thirty-five thousand dollars by selling the top-secret Klan membership list to an enigmatic character named Bill Wilkinson. Wilkinson presented himself to Duke as a Klansman intending to set up his own splinter organization. In fact, he was secretly an FBI informant. Wilkinson videotaped Duke dickering over the price, then threatened to play the tape at a KKK meeting. Possibly the whole thing was an FBI sting—or possibly Wilkinson saw a freelance opportunity. Duke left the Klan after that.

Duke had never held a regular job and was not keen to start. Naturally, he turned to politics. Plastic surgery and a blow-dryer transformed him into something resembling a game show host. Starting in 1975, he began running for local offices in Louisiana. In 1980 he founded his own organization, the National Association for the Advancement of White People. He discovered that there was good money to be made in fringe nonprofits. After Duke and some Klansmen were arrested at a demonstration in Forsythe County, Georgia, he raised nineteen thousand dollars from white supremacists nationwide to pay a fifty-five-dollar fine.

In 1988 Duke ran for president of the United States, entering several primaries as a Democrat. No one took him seriously except for writers of offbeat feature articles. He then ran as a Populist and got 47,047 votes.

In 1989, Duke downsized his ambitions to run for the Louisiana legislature. Not only did he win, but he won against former Republican governor Dave Treen. This coup encouraged Duke to run for the U.S. Senate in 1990. He lost. Then in 1991, he decided it was time to try for governor of Louisiana.

 
 
Edwin Edwards “plays the system like a violin. He had an uncanny knack of charging headlong to the brink and knowing exactly where to stop . . . and he doesnt even try to cover his trail, hes that cocky.” These were the words of U.S. Attorney Stanford Bardwell, Jr., one of the many prosecutors who indicted Edwards and saw him wriggle off the hook. Some called Edwards the most corrupt politician in a corrupt state.

Edwards was born dirt-poor in an cypress-wood farmhouse his father built with his own hands. He attended Louisiana State University and became a successful trial lawyer in Cajun country. Entering politics as a populist Democrat, he made a successful run for governor in 1972, winning on an alliance of the Cajun and black vote. In the governors mansion, so close to the flow of money and power (the two great aphrodisiacs), he was like a kid in a candy store.

His plump patrician face, ruddy nose and cheeks, graying hair, and salacious wit perfectly fit the part of an aging roué. “Two out of ten women will go to bed with you,” ran one of Edwardss maxims, “but youve got to ask the other eight.” Edwards inherited the Louisiana tradition of influence peddling and used it to live lavishly. His most expensive habit was gambling. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that Edwards

 

is granted up to $200,000 casino credit at the stroke of his pen . . . He is classified by his favorite hotel-casino—Caesars Palace—among the 0.25 percent of its customers whose importance as gamblers makes  the company unwilling to share credit information with other casinos. Caesars even waives its maximum bet limit when Edwards steps to the table . . . He eats his meals on the casinos tab in the Strips poshest restaurants. He sunbathes on casino-owned yachts at Lake Tahoe. He glides around town in casino limousines, and he and his entourage stay at luxury suites in the most popular hotels. All for free.

What can Edwards get from the Vegas casinos? “Anything he wants,” a former Caesars Palace employee said.

 

“I like to gamble,” Edwards admitted. He was able to get away with all he did because of a good ol boy charisma that charmed journalists, voters, and grand juries alike. A reporter once asked Edwards if it wasnt illegal for him to accept a reported twenty-thousand-dollar bribe from South Korean lobbyist Tongsun Park. Edwards replied, “It was illegal for them to give, but not for me to receive.” Or as Edwards asked another time: “Whats wrong with making money?”

 
 
One of Edwardss most puzzling contributions to Louisiana politics was the open primary, more evocatively known as the jungle primary. Candidates of all parties run against one another in a no-holds-barred primordial contest. The two candidates with the most votes go on to a runoff election for the office.

The open primary, proponents say, gives more power to voters and less to decision makers in smoke-filled back rooms. That was the part that mystified the pundits. It defied belief that such a consummate player as Edwin Edwards would have backed a high-minded reform without considering what was in it for him.

In 1972, Louisianas registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans twenty to one. That made the primary system used in other states ludicrous. The real fight was for the Democratic nomination. The final Democrat-versus-Republican election was a formality, a waste of time and money. With the open primary, both the primary and the runoff were meaningful, hard-fought elections.

No one believed that this rationale was sufficient to outweigh an obvious negative: Edwards was a Democrat, and his jungle primary would help the Republican Party.

A slew of Democrats would run in each primary. There would probably be only one Republican. The Republican would automatically corner the conservative vote, while each Democrat would have to scratch and claw for a scrap of the liberal vote (and for liberal campaign money). That would almost guarantee that the Republican made it to the runoff. The Republican could spend his campaign dollars where they counted—on the runoff election.

So what was in it for Edwards, a liberal Democrat? The only theory that made sense was worthy of Machiavelli. Under Louisiana law, the governor cannot run for a third consecutive term. Edwards, who was reelected in 1976, was out of the game when his second term expired in 1980. The law did not preclude a third term (or more), as long as it wasnt three in a row.

According to this theory, by backing the open primary Edwards was looking several moves ahead, to 1984. Believing it would be easier to beat an incumbent Republican than a younger, less baggage-encumbered Democrat, Edwards knew (made sure?) that there would be no heir apparent in the Democratic Party. With the open primary, the Democratic vote would be more fragmented than usual, and Edwards could therefore count on the split Democratic vote to lead to the election of a Republican—someone to house-sit the governors mansion for him. Then, in 1983, he would reunify the Democrats and sail to an easy third victory.

If this really was Edwardss plan, it was a bigger gamble than the ones he was making at the craps tables. No Republican had been elected governor of Louisiana since Reconstruction.

This “theory” describes exactly what happened. In 1979, five Democrats ran, and only one Republican. The front-running Democrat, Louis Lambert, was the most liberal of the group. Under the old, party-controlled system, the Democrats surely would have chosen someone more moderate than Lambert. As it was, Lambert ran in the runoff against Republican David Treen, and Treen won. He became Louisianas first Republican governor since 1877.

And in 1983, Edwin Edwards had no problem making sure that Treens first term would be his last. He told the press that Treen was “so slow it takes him an hour and a half to watch 60 Minutes.” As Election Day approached, Edwards boasted that he couldnt lose unless he was caught “in bed with a dead girl or a live boy.” He won the runoff with 63 percent of the vote.

Is it possible that Edwards planned all this, back when he launched the open primary? Columnist John Maginnis recalls an enigmatic comment Edwards made in 1978 to a Republican Womens Club. The club members were pleased that the then-new open primary was helping Republicans get elected. Edwards said, “You are happy with the open primary now, but there will come a day when you will not be.” Without explaining the statement, he left the room.

 

Excerpted from Gaming the Vote by William Poundstone. Copyright © 2007 by William Poundstone. Published in February 2008 by Hill and Wang, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

election reformer, February 16, 2008 (view all comments by election reformer)
The book is extremely well-written, and a joy to read. It would be highly recommended, except for two fatal flaws discussed below.

Poundstone's latest book deals with an issue that is fundamental to democracy, yet almost totally ignored in the U.S. While many books focus on the role of money in elections, or voter registration, or voting machine integrity, relatively few popularly written books have tackled the more fundamental question of how votes get translated into representation. This is not a question of voting machine technology, but of logic. Most Americans are remarkably unaware of the variety of voting methods available, nor of the fact that the plurality voting method that predominates in the U.S. is not the norm among modern democracies, and, in fact, is probably the most problematic of all voting methods.

Americans generally accept as inevitable that if more than two candidates are in a race, vote splitting may cause a candidate that the majority oppose to be declared elected. Poundstone points out that it doesn't have to be that way. For hundreds of years thoughtful individuals have proposed alternative means of finding majority winners, that avoid this problem. Voting methods that allow voters to rank candidates in order of preference, for example, were first proposed over 150 years ago and have been used for government elections around the world for generations. He discusses the history of methods such as the borda count, condorcet pairwise comparisons, approval voting, and instant runoff voting.

Poundstone approaches the subject by telling stories about the key people involved (both historic and contemporary), making the history and theory of voting into a fascinating and compelling tale. His book avoids the technical formula-laden jargon of voting theory texts, but does justice to the concepts. He manages to present Kenneth Arrow's Impossibility Theorem (often summarized as "there is no such thing as a perfect voting method") in a way that makes it both understandable and interesting.

However, the book suffers from two fundamental shortcomings, that prompt me to give a poor overall rating. First is the fact that Poundstone focuses almost exclusively on the question of how to elect an executive, single seat office, as if this was the core problem we face. He gives scant attention to the single biggest issue of voting in democracies, that of how to achieve fair representation in legislative bodies. He discusses proportional representation in just a few pages, and never really tackles the problems inherent in all of the winner-take-all election methods that he spends the rest of the book discussing.

The other fundamental failing of the book is his championing the assertions of advocates of one particular reform as immune from the paradoxes and dilemmas facing all other voting methods. He simply accepts the claim that Range Voting, a theoretical method in which voters can give a score to each candidate, can avoid the dilemmas and tactical manipulation. Poundstone was either unaware, or chose to ignore the analysis of Nicolaus Tideman, in his 2006 book, "Collective Decisions and Voting," which led Tideman to place Range Voting on the list of "unsupportable" voting methods, because his analysis showed it to be extremely prone to strategic manipulation.

Unfortunately, this shortcoming misdirects people in the key second part of his subtitle -- "what to do about it." Readers truly taking Poundstone seriously are likely to end up banging their heads against the wall -- and perhaps making them more frustrated and alienated than ever.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)

Product Details

ISBN:
9780809048939
Subtitle:
Why Elections Aren't Fair (and What We Can Do About It)
Author:
Poundstone, William
Publisher:
Hill and Wang
Subject:
General Political Science
Subject:
General
Subject:
Politics, practical
Subject:
Elections
Subject:
Political Process - Elections
Subject:
Government - U.S. Government
Subject:
Voting -- United States.
Subject:
United States Politics and government.
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
20090217
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Includes 18 Black-and-White Illustration
Pages:
352
Dimensions:
8.7 x 5.61 x 0.98 in

Other books you might like

  1. Confessions: An Innocent Life in...
    Used Hardcover $8.95
  2. American Slavery American Freedom... Used Trade Paper $4.50

Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » Politics » United States » Politics

Gaming the Vote: Why Elections Aren't Fair (and What We Can Do about It) Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$4.95 In Stock
Product details 352 pages Hill & Wang - English 9780809048939 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Behind the standard one man-one vote formula lies a labyrinth of bizarre dysfunction, according to this engaging study of the science of voting. America's system is 'the least sensible way to vote,' argues Poundstone (Fortune's Formula), prone to vote-splitting fiascoes like the 2000 election. Unfortunately, according to the author, a famous 'impossibility theorem' states that no voting procedure can accurately gauge the will of the people without failures and paradoxes. (More optimistically, Poundstone contends that important problems are solved by 'range voting,' in which voters score each candidate independently on a 1 — 10 scale.) Poundstone provides a lucid survey of electoral systems and their eccentric proponents (Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, loved voting novelties), studded with colorful stories of election skullduggery by campaign consultants, whom he likens to 'terrorists... exploiting the mathematical vulnerabilities of voting itself.' His lively, accessible mix of high theory and low politics merits a thumbs-up. Illus." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "In this lucid and well-thought-out book, Poundstone deftly illustrates how the current system is rigged for failure if more than two candidates are running for any one office....What begins to emerge is a paradox of how the most popular candidate may not win the election." (read the entire Powells.com review)
"Synopsis" by ,
At least five U.S. presidential elections have been won by the second most popular candidate, but these results were not inevitable. In fact, such an unfair outcome need never happen again, and as William Poundstone shows in Gaming the Vote, the solution is lurking right under our noses.
 
In all five cases, the vote was upset by a “spoiler”—a minor candidate who took enough votes away from the most popular candidate to tip the election to someone else. The spoiler effect is more than a glitch. It is a consequence of one of the most surprising intellectual discoveries of the twentieth century: the “impossibility theorem” of the Nobel laureate economist Kenneth Arrow. His theorem asserts that voting is fundamentally unfair—a finding that has not been lost on todays political consultants. Armed with polls, focus groups, and smear campaigns, political strategists are exploiting the mathematical faults of the simple majority vote. The answer to the spoiler problem lies in a system called range voting, which would satisfy both right and left, and Gaming the Vote assesses the obstacles confronting any attempt to change the U.S. electoral system.
 
The latest of several books by Poundstone on the theme of how important scientific ideas have affected the real world, Gaming the Vote is both a wry exposé of how the political system really works and a call to action.
"Synopsis" by ,
Our Electoral System is Fundamentally Flawed, But Theres a Simple and Fair Solution

 

At least five U.S. presidential elections have been won by the second most popular candidate. The reason was a “spoiler”—a minor candidate who takes enough votes away from the most popular candidate to tip the election to someone else. The spoiler effect is more than a glitch. It is a consequence of one of the most surprising intellectual discoveries of the twentieth century: the “impossibility theorem” of Nobel laureate economist Kenneth Arrow. The impossibility theorem asserts that voting is fundamentally unfair—a finding that has not been lost on todays political consultants. Armed with polls, focus groups, and smear campaigns, political strategists are exploiting the mathematical faults of the simple majority vote. In recent election cycles, this has led to such unlikely tactics as Republicans funding ballot drives for Green spoilers and Democrats paying for right-wing candidates radio ads. Gaming the Vote shows that there is a solution to the spoiler problem that will satisfy both right and left. A system

called range voting, already widely used on the Internet, is the fairest voting method of all, according to computer studies. Despite these findings, range voting remains controversial, and Gaming the Vote assesses the obstacles confronting any attempt to change the American electoral system. The latest of several books by William Poundstone on the theme of how important scientific ideas have affected the real world, Gaming the Vote is a wry exposé of how the political system really works, and a call to action.

William Poundstone is the bestselling author of ten nonfiction books, including Labyrinths of Reason and The Recursive Universe, both of which were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
At least five U.S. presidential elections have been won by the second most popular candidate. The reason was a “spoiler”—a minor candidate who takes enough votes away from the most popular candidate to tip the election to someone else. The spoiler effect is more than a glitch. It is a consequence of one of the most surprising intellectual discoveries of the twentieth century: the “impossibility theorem” of Nobel laureate economist Kenneth Arrow. The impossibility theorem asserts that voting is fundamentally unfair—a finding that has not been lost on todays political consultants. Armed with polls, focus groups, and smear campaigns, political strategists are exploiting the mathematical faults of the simple majority vote. In recent election cycles, this has led to such unlikely tactics as Republicans funding ballot drives for Green spoilers and Democrats paying for right-wing candidates radio ads.
 
Gaming the Vote shows that there is a solution to the spoiler problem that will satisfy both right and left. A system called range voting, already widely used on the Internet, is the fairest voting method of all, according to computer studies. Despite these findings, range voting remains controversial, and Gaming the Vote assesses the obstacles confronting any attempt to change the American electoral system. The latest of several books by William Poundstone on the theme of how important scientific ideas have affected the real world, Gaming the Vote is a wry exposé of how the political system really works, and a call to action.
“Poundstone always writes with the premise that thinking can be entertaining. His latest book, Gaming the Vote, clearly reasoned, well-researched, and often amusing, deals with the crucially important question: How best does a government ‘by the people decide what to do?  He does not find a definitive answer, but he shows why it is so difficult and prepares the citizen to face the question responsibly.”—Rush Holt, U.S. House of Representatives (NJ-12)

"Americans most recent encounter with 'the spoiler effect' was in 2000, when Ralph Nader diverted enough votes from Al Gore in Florida, at least one poll suggested, to tip the election to George W. Bush. By Poundstones reckoning, four other presidential races were probably skewed by minor-party candidates—'an 11 percent rate of catastrophic failure,' he writes . . . Poundstone, the author of 10 previous books, has the popular science writers knack for wrapping difficult material in enticing anecdotes. How can you not be seduced by a book that uses the Hot or Not Web site to illustrate range voting?"—Mick Sussman, The New York Times Book Review

"William Poundstone's Gaming the Vote arrives amid unusually high reader interest in equitable voting. And Mr. Poundstone is a clear, entertaining explicator of election science. He easily bridges the gaps between theoretical and popular thinking, between passionate political debate and cool mathematical certainty."—Janet Maslin, The New York Times 

"Gaming the Vote is about the problem of an election system that selects Candidate B when a majority would have preferred Candidate A. The book's author, William Poundstone, is not a political guy. He is a science writer. He writes not with a partisan's bile but with a technician's delight in explaining all the ways our democracy can give us what we don't want . . . This is a book that goes down easily. The reader who likes puzzles, math and politics will especially enjoy it . . . Poundstone is not a social scientist showing off but a storyteller."—Bruce Ramsey, The Seattle Times

“Poundstone always writes with the premise that thinking can be entertaining. His latest book, Gaming the Vote, clearly reasoned, well-researched, and often amusing, deals with the crucially important question: How best does a government ‘by the people decide what to do?  He does not find a definitive answer, but he shows why it is so difficult and prepares the citizen to face the question responsibly.”—Rush Holt, U.S. House of Representatives (NJ-12)

“In 1948 economist Kenneth Arrow dropped a bombshell on political scientists. He proved that no voting system can be perfect. Poundstones eleventh book is a superb attempt to demystify Arrows amazing achievement, and to defend ‘range voting as the best voting system yet devised. His account is interwoven with a colorful history of American elections, from the corrupt politics of Louisiana to Ralph Nader as the ‘spoiler whose splitting of the Democratic votes helped elect George W. Bush. A chapter covers Lewis Carrolls little-known valiant efforts to solve the voting problem. A raft of amusing political cartoons enliven Poundstones prose. There is no better introduction to the inescapable flaws and paradoxes of all voting systems than this eye-opening, timely volume.”—Martin Gardner, author of Are Universes Thicker than Blackberries? and more than 60 other titles

Gaming the Vote is a witty, irreverent tour dhorizon of voting theories, voting theorists, and their quarrels. Unlike many academic brouhahas, the stakes here are high. Both citizens and politicians will delight in the tales Poundstone tells, but it won't always be easy to tell whos right. Nevertheless, Poundstone cuts through a lot of the obfuscation and takes sides, which wont please everybody.”—Steven J. Brams, Department of Politics, New York University, and author of Mathematics and Democracy: Designing Better Voting and Fair-Division Procedures

Gaming the Vote is a must-read for anyone interested in the process and outcomes of voting.  Poundstone gives a clear and remarkably accurate account of the rich theoretical literature. At the same time, his examples of voting anomalies in real elections are both lively and revealing.”—Kenneth J. Arrow, professor of economics (emeritus) at Stanford University and winner of the 1972 Nobel Prize in Economic Science

"In this masterful presentation William Poundstone sketches the history of voting systems, elucidates ideas such as Borda counts, Condorcet winners, and range voting, and shows how changing our system could make it less likely to yield paradoxical and unfair results. Ranging easily over material as disparate as Arrow's impossibility theorem and recent presidential elections, he makes it clear just how unclear is the question, 'Who won?' The book has my vote."—John Allen Paulos, author of Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences and Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for Religion Just Don't Add Up

"Behind the standard one man-one vote formula lies a labyrinth of bizarre dysfunction, according to this engaging study of the science of voting. America's system is the least sensible way to vote, argues Poundstone, prone to vote-splitting fiascoes like the 2000 election. Unfortunately, according to the author, a famous impossibility theorem states that no voting procedure can accurately gauge the will of the people without failures and paradoxes. (More optimistically, Poundstone contends that important problems are solved by range voting, in which voters score each candidate independently on a 1–10 scale.) Poundstone provides a lucid survey of electoral systems and their eccentric proponents (Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, loved voting novelties), studded with colorful stories of election skullduggery by campaign consultants, whom he likens to terrorists . . . exploiting the mathematical vulnerabilities of voting itself. His lively, accessible mix of high theory and low politics merits a thumbs-up."—Publishers Weekly

spacer
spacer
  • back to top

FOLLOW US ON...

     
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.